Gilpin ballot boxes a good idea for multiple locations  

But County Attorney says process was flawed and should have been planned better

by Heather Worrell

The regular Board of County Commissioners meeting began at 9 am on July 28, 2015 at the Gilpin County Courthouse in Central City.

Public Comments about Ballot Box Fundraiser

Three Gilpin citizens provided their opinions regarding a fundraiser for a ballot box that was held at Roy’s Last Shot this past Sunday.

Joseph Self, a registered Democrat living in mid Gilpin County, noted that he “does not understand the concern over a private fundraiser to get the funds for a second box” and asked for the County’s position. Commissioner Chair Buddy Schmalz responded, “These items are not in the budget, so we are concerned about that. In prior years we didn’t have money for this. The compromise was to provide the Clerk & Recorder a ballot box that they could place wherever they wish.” The Clerk & Recorder requested funding for two ballot drop-off boxes, but the request was approved for only one ballot box at the last Commissioners meeting on July 14th that they could put wherever they thought best.

Self referenced an email he sent the day prior of which he noted that he was a judge for the 2014 elections, “I can say that having only one ballot drop site – at the County Courthouse in Central City – was a point of contention for many of the voters, despite that all ballots could be mailed.”

Central City Alderman Gloria Gaines also participated in the public comment portion of the meeting. She expressed her “disappointment in the handling of a recent attempt aimed at helping your constituents.” She continued that she didn’t know what all was involved, but it didn’t appear that this issue was handled well. Gaines attended the fundraiser along with several others noting that it seemed to be successful as many people were in attendance from all parts of the county. She suggested “if constituents are willing to help themselves and the county by solving a perceived problem, the Commissioners should have let the process happen.” Gaines noted that she did not feel the Commissioners could be depended on to do the right thing and that she would be publicly voting against allowing Commissioners three terms of service this November, noting “we need the diversity that the 2-term limit restriction provides.”

Clerk & Recorder Colleen Stewart’s spouse also commented, “I’m ashamed of everybody at this table.” He noted that a legal letter had gone out and he didn’t believe the situation was handled correctly.

  In a July 20th letter from County Attorney James Petrock to County Manager Roger Baker he advised Baker, “There are specific legal issues associated with funds being given directly to the County Clerk, to be used for a specific purpose, which involves the exercise of discretion on the part of the Clerk.” Petrock advised Baker of a feasible alternative where funds “could be donated to Gilpin County, without restriction on the use of the funds, those funds may then be deposited in the County General Fund and used for appropriations by the Board of County Commissioners for all county purposes, including funding the Clerk & Recorder.”

This reporter asked the Board of County Commissioners if they would have been in support of finding alternative funding to support the initiative if it had been given a longer time frame for approval. Chair Schmalz responded, “Yes! We are always looking. We would never not consider, and we try to be very creative.” Commissioner Watson added, “We encourage all of our County employees and officials to seek grant funding. The Clerk & Recorder did a wonderful job getting grants for the digitization of the microfiche records. These were grants, not asking taxpayers for more money for a County supported function. We are already doing a very good job on elections, so I voted for one box. I was surprised they asked citizens to donate money to their government.”

County Manager Baker noted in an interview, that attempts to blame the Commissioners for the confusion were ill-founded, since the Commissioners had never met since the fundraiser was planned. “I asked the County Attorney to give the Clerk’s Office legal advice on how the money had to be handled to protect the Clerk & Recorder, who as an elected official must be very careful about how funds are raised and handled.” Clerk & Recorder Colleen Stewart was unavailable for comment as she was out of town.

In an interview with Barb Stewart of The Last Shot, it was learned that the event was originally planned as their annual Customer Appreciation Event. The fundraiser for the ballot box was added at a later time. Stewart was asked if she was threatened or felt threatened by anyone for holding the fundraiser and she did not wish to comment.

ACS Contract Renewal

Finance Director Clorinda Smith next presented her request to renew the County’s contract with ACS Enterprise Solutions that provides application hosting and technology support services. She noted that the Finance department and Treasurer’s office were pretty happy with the current provider and this contract would be for the same software that is currently used extending it until year 2018. The Board unanimously approved the contract.

Treasurer’s Monthly Report

Chief Deputy Treasurer and Public Trustee Mary Lorenz presented the Treasurer’s Monthly report to the Board of County Commissioners. Lorenz indicated that the office is way down in the amount of taxes that are still owed, which is great news and comparable to last year. The report indicates that total county funds are up over last year. The total county fund has a little over $8.2 million dollars as of June 2015.

Boundary Line Elimination for KK Ranch

County Planner Ray Rears presented the Boundary Line Elimination application for BLE #15-05, regarding John L Payne & Candace Payne Living Trust of KK Ranch, Block 2, Lots 1A & 2A. The Paynes were requesting the elimination of the boundary line between their lots. The Commissioners approved their request unanimously.

Asking Voters to Repeal Senate Bill 152 to Facilitate Broadband Improvements

The Commissioners next approved Resolution 15-09, Referring a Ballot Question to the Qualified Electors of Gilpin County…to Repeal the Limitations on County Provision of Internet Services through Title 29, Article 27 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. Currently Senate Bill 152, passed in 2005, limits the ability of local governments to provide cable television service, telecommunications service, and high-speed internet access. Voters may authorize their local government to provide such services upon approval through a general election. The Commissioners approved the ballot question for November having determined it is in the best interest of the citizens of Gilpin County. Commissioner Watson has been heading up the project and notes that the SB 152 restricts the county from getting involved at any level to help improve the broadband in the county. She notes that she and Commissioner Isenhart have been working with Clear Creek County to help get access to $20 million in broadband infrastructure grant funds form the Department of Local Affairs. Watson noted that they are unable to even apply for funding unless voters repeal this bill. “We are not looking to compete with any providers in the county. We are hoping to help them in some way to provide a carrier neutral location. We don’t have the desire or ability to become our own Internet Service Provider. This would allow us to get involved in the middle mile and help us to support our existing providers.”

Manager, Attorney and Commissioner Reports

Manager Baker had no monthly reports to share. He notes that correspondence was received from Marty Quinn & Reuben Kline of the Grand Fondo National Championship Series thanking Community Development Director Tony Peterson for his contribution and support for the successful bicycle racing event held on June 21st.  Baker also noted that Colorado Parks and Wildlife had recently announced they would be closing Mountain Base Road within Golden Gate Canyon State Park from 7 am Monday, August 3rd until 6 pm Sunday August 30th. County Attorney Jim Petrock had nothing to share.

Commissioner Watson shared a letter from Centura Health noting that the provider shared, “The Gilpin Connect has been a great help to our hospitalized patients. This basic service is so appreciated.” Commissioner Linda Isenhart urged everyone in public service to be aware that hacker attempts are going on constantly. She shared this after attending a meeting with Jefferson County Mental Health where she learned that in their transition to electronic medical records, the organization is experiencing over 20,000 hacker attempts each week.

Other Business

The Board of County Commissioners approved the meeting minutes for the previous July 14, 2015 meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 9:37 am.

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