Court: City erred in nixing petition effort against Brady Trucking
The city of Grand Junction “abused discretion” in nullifying citizen petitions collected in opposition to a 2008 zoning decision by the City Council, according to a recent ruling from the Colorado Court of Appeals.
The ruling, issued Dec. 23, said City Clerk Stephanie Tuin erred in January 2009 when she rejected petitions challenging a project by Utah-based Brady Trucking. Tuin ruled a public notary, Candi Clark, had a disqualifying interest in the petitions because she signed and notarized the same petition section.
Tuin argued that state law prohibits public notaries who have a disqualifying interest in a transaction, such as signing a petition, from notarizing that same petition. Mesa County Chief District Judge David Bottger upheld the city’s position in a lawsuit that followed.
The Court of Appeals disagreed.
“We conclude that the narrow language (in state law) limits notarial disqualifications to the most suspect situations, such as where a candidate notarizes his or her own nomination petitions,” the court’s ruling said. It continued, “We do not think that a notary signing a petition as an elector so calls into question his or her truthfulness in notarizing the circulator’s affidavit as to produce a high risk of fraud.”
Some 1,864 petition signatures were gathered in late 2008 and submitted to the city, which, at the time, were four more signatures than the minimum needed to petition the City Council for a zoning change, or refer the issue to city voters.
Brady Trucking had sought to expand its local oil-fields services operations on roughly 13 acres near 27 1/2 and C 1/2 roads and the company won approval from the City Council for a change to light industrial and industrial on the company’s land. Opponents had argued the project would harm the area near the Colorado River where the project was planned.
Clark, who had spoken to the City Council in opposition to the project, notarized a section of the petitions containing 18 signatures. Tuin’s decision to disqualify Clark’s section of the petitions left the effort short 14 signatures.
City Attorney John Shaver said there had been no Colorado case law addressing the specific notary question raised in the Brady Trucking flap.
“I am not recommending the city appeal the Court of Appeals decision regarding the notary disqualification issue,” Shaver wrote in a e-mail when asked for comment on the ruling.
“As the case progresses, we may have other appellate issues,” Shaver said.
The court’s ruling ordered the case back before Bottger for further proceedings.