Brady Trucking fight goes to court

Zoning foes sue city after petition tossed

A lawyer and a member of a citizens’ group have filed a lawsuit against the city of Grand Junction, alleging the city clerk improperly disqualified signatures on a petition that might have led the city to overturn industrial zoning along the Colorado River.

Attorney Harry Griff and notary public Candi Clark asked Mesa County Chief District Judge David Bottger to reverse City Clerk Stephanie Tuin’s ruling and force her to consider additional signatures that were collected after her ruling.

The controversy is zoning for nearly 13 acres owned by an energy services company, Brady Trucking, near 27 1/2 and C 1/2 roads. The dispute has landed in district court five months after the City Council approved a mixture of light-industrial and industrial-office park zoning.

The council decision prompted members of Western Colorado Congress and a group calling itself Concerned Citizens for Protecting Downtown Riverfront Zoning to circulate petitions opposing the zoning of the property. The groups wanted less intensive mixed use development.

Their petitions sought to force council members to either reverse themselves or allow voters to decide the issue.

Tuin accepted 1,864 signatures, four more than was legally required to compel council action.

But Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke, acting as a private citizen, filed a protest of the petitions.

In January, Tuin ruled that Clark had a disqualifying interest in the petition because she notarized a page which she also had signed as a petitioner, and therefore had become too involved in the petition process. Tuin threw out the 18 signatures on the petition section signed and notarized by Clark, leaving petitioners short of the minimum number required.

Griff and Clark argue in the lawsuit that Clark had no interest in the petition that would prevent her from notarizing it.

“That ruling constituted an abuse of discretion on the City Clerk’s part, as the mere fact that Ms. Clark had signed the Petition Section herself did not result in her having any kind of financial or other involvement in the subject matter of the Petition, or in the circulation of the Petition Section, that would disqualify her from being able to notarize the circulator’s attestation signature” under state law, they wrote.

Even if Clark had been prohibited from both signing and notarizing a petition, Tuin should have disqualified only Clark’s signature, which would have kept the petition intact, Griff and Clark argued.

They also claim state law specifies that criminal sanctions should be pursued against a notary public — rather than voiding a petition — if an improper notarization occurs.

In a separate claim, Griff and Clark contend Tuin refused to consider additional signatures petitioners collected to make up for the disqualified ones, even though city representatives, including Mayor Gregg Palmer, assured them they would have the ability to collect more. They claim state law and the city’s charter give them the right to “cure” the signature shortfall.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month, names as defendants the city, Tuin, Schwenke and Brady Trucking. They have until March 4 to respond to the lawsuit.


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