Wayne Williams screen grab from mayoral ad, March 2023

Colorado Springs mayoral candidate Wayne Williams appears in a campaign ad released ahead of the April 4 municipal election. 

Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify that Clark used stock footage and photos in her advertisement.

The Colorado Springs city clerk is investigating a complaint that mayoral candidate Wayne Williams may have violated a city campaign code.

A nonpartisan resident group called Integrity Matters filed a complaint with the City Attorney's Office on Wednesday, asking it to investigate whether Williams, a city councilman, violated city code by partially depicting Colorado Springs Fire Department firefighters at a training facility and a fire truck at a firehouse in 6-second, 15-second and 30-second versions of a campaign ad he is airing on Facebook. 

City Clerk's Office spokeswoman Jennifer Schreuder said Thursday the city attorney forwarded the complaint to the clerk.

The complaint alleges Williams' ad "unethically ties his campaign to city resources and gives the appearance (the Colorado Springs Fire Department), which is a city department, is in support of his campaign."

The group said it believed Williams violated a section of city code prohibiting the use of "city resources to support or oppose, directly or indirectly, a person running for office, the retention of a person who is the subject of a recall election, or an election issue."

The code defines city resources as funds, assets or any other resources owned, controlled or otherwise used or employed by the city, as well as individuals acting on city time or with the city.

"The city code is quite clear that you cannot use ... city resources to make any kind of political campaign," Integrity Matters President John Pitchford said. 

Integrity Matters member Dana Duggan said the group's biggest concern is that the ad could give viewers the impression the city is backing a certain candidate.

"Branding works for a reason," said Duggan, who previously worked for media companies such as Nielsen Media Research and Lifetime Television, among others. 

Williams on Thursday denied the allegation and called it "absurd."

"There is not any official city position," he said.

Though the Professional Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 5, has endorsed him, Williams said the group is backing him "in their individual capacity as a union, not as city employees."

Williams' campaign team reached out to the fire department to discuss filming the ad "and then followed all the instructions they were given," he said. 

On Wednesday, a representative for Williams' campaign told Gazette news partner KKTV they had consulted with attorneys about the ad and "were confident they were following the rules."

Williams told The Gazette he will continue running all three versions of the ad and questioned the timing of the complaint.

"These ads have been running for several weeks, so it's obviously a publicity stunt designed to occur right as the ballots were going out," he said.

In August, Pitchford and Integrity Matters attempted to recall Williams because of his appearance with Secretary of State Jena Griswold in a public service announcement promoting trust in the elections process. Residents criticized the announcement for using just over $1 million in federal election assistance funds to air 15- and 30-second versions of the ad statewide for two weeks, according to previous reporting by Colorado Politics.

The recall campaign didn't receive enough signatures, and the group in November said it would shift to opposing Williams' mayoral bid.

Another mayoral candidate, Sallie Clark, is also running an ad partially depicting fire trucks, firefighting equipment and a firehouse, though no logos are clearly visible. Schreuder said the City Clerk's Office has not received a similar complaint against Clark nor any other candidate for Colorado Springs mayor or City Council.

Clark said Thursday she used stock footage and photos, including one depicting fire equipment from a South Carolina town, after she reached out to the Colorado Springs Fire Department, which told her she could not film in front of the fire museum located at 375 Printers Parkway. In a Feb. 7 email to Clark, obtained by The Gazette, Colorado Springs Fire Department Deputy Chief of Support Services Steve Dubay references the same section of city code regarding use of city resources to campaign.

A monument sign for the fire museum is partially depicted in all three versions of Williams' ad.

Colorado Springs Fire Department spokesman Capt. Mike Smaldino said Thursday he could not comment because of the ongoing investigation.

After the city denied her filming request, Clark said she used stock footage from elsewhere to ensure she was complying with city election laws.

"We did it outside of Colorado Springs and we did not use logos on purpose," she said.

Schreuder did not provide an estimated timeline for when the investigation could be completed, but officials told KKTV on Wednesday it could conclude "quickly."

It was unclear what, if any, penalty there could be if the clerk determines Williams' ad did violate city code.


Breeanna Jent covers Colorado Springs City Hall. She has previously covered El Paso County government and worked as the editorial assistant for the Pikes Peak Newspapers. She joined their sister paper, The Gazette, in 2020.

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