Drop box at Cripple Creek courthouse

Should a recall election of three school board members in Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1 hold, voters will be able to drop off ballots at a 24-hour drop box at the courthouse in Cripple Creek.

A procedural misstep on the part of three Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1 board members protesting a recall movement led a hearing officer to order a recall election for Timothy Braun, Dennis Jones and Tonya Martin.

But Braun and Jones disagree with the finding and filed a motion in the Fourth Judicial District Courthouse in Cripple Creek on Monday, appealing the decision. They are calling for a stay on the recall process until a judge rules on their request.

“We think they erred,” Jones said. “Our hope is the judge will hear our case and we either have another protest hearing or be allowed to present our protest at district court.

“We really don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Meanwhile, a mail-in recall election is set for July 16, said Stephanie Kees, chief deputy clerk for the Teller County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

Ballots are set to be mailed June 25-28 to 3,289 active, registered voters living in the school district’s boundaries, Kees said. Voters would decide whether to retain the board members or oust them and replace them with others.

Former district employee Patty Waddle started the recall petition drive in January, accusing Braun, board president, Jones, treasurer, and Tonya Martin, secretary, of “multiple violations of Colorado state statutes, school board policies and resolutions, Sunshine laws and the Colorado Open Records Act.”

The targeted board members have contested the drive from the beginning, saying the allegations the recall petitioners circulated are incorrect.

“The language on the petition is false, so people are going to be making a decision on false statements, and we don’t think that’s right,” Jones said.

To provide impartiality to the process, Teller County Clerk and Recorder and Designated Election Official Krystal Brown asked the county’s attorney, Paul Hurcomb, to act as the hearing officer at the protest hearing, Kees said.

The board members sought to prove the claims against them are not true, but they never had a chance to present their side.

Braun, Jones and Martin did not submit their protests under oath — meaning in front of a notary — as state statute requires, the hearing officer ruled.

That was news to the board members, Jones said.

“We turned it in and weren’t told it had to have an acknowledgment,” Jones said. “The clerk accepted it, and we thought everything was in order.”

At the hearing, the officer administered the oath, and “made it sound like the protest was going forward,” Jones said. “At the end, he said ‘it’s not going to happen because you guys didn’t follow state statute.’”

The hearing officer ordered the designated election official to set the date for the recall election, Kees said.

Jones said he and Braun disagree with “the hearing officer’s interpretation, as there is no clear definition of whether the oath was to be in the form of notarization or if the clerk should have administered the oath when presented.”

Should the election happen, ballots will contain a 200-word paragraph in favor of recalling each board member.

A 300-word rebuttal from each board member also will be included. Jones said those are due Thursday, and the board members have prepared them.

As it stands now, anyone wishing to become a successor must obtain 25 signatures from valid voters and return them to the Clerk and Recorder’s Office by June 7, to be included on the ballot as a potential replacement.

Voters supporting the recall of each board member also could write in names on the ballot.

As of Monday, Kees said one person had requested a successor petition but had not yet turned it in for approval.

The outcome of an election would be determined by more yes votes than no votes, she said.

The base cost of a recall election is an estimated $8,500, Kees said, but would be more because of the protests filed. The school district must pay for the costs.

The board members’ appeal could crunch an already tight deadline for a recall election.

“We have the print vendor on standby, the ballot programmer on standby,” Kees said.

Voters would be able to return ballots by mail or in person in a 24-hour drop box outside the courthouse in Cripple Creek.

A voters’ service center is set to open June 24 in the courthouse, if the timeline holds. Kees asks that voters wait until they receive their ballots in the mail before seeking assistance.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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