Rangely to correct ballot problems

Rangely town officials will conduct municipal elections with an eye toward complying with state law after signing an agreement with Rio Blanco County prosecutors.

The agreement, approved Dec. 19 by District Judge Gail H. Nichols, calls for the town to maintain tighter control of ballots while training more elections officials than they have in the past.

The person who sparked the investigation, however, said she was disappointed.

Darlene Ann Feller called the outcome a “slap on the wrist” and said she would continue questioning the workings of city hall.

Feller filed a complaint about the conduct of the election first with Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, which referred the matter to the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Investigators found no irregularities in the outcome of the election, which featured a close race for the fourth open spot on the council.

Feller said she was the candidate who fell just short of being elected.

Though the investigation raised no question about the outcome, it did identify several areas in which the town’s procedures “were not quite according to state statute,” Town Attorney Sherman Romney said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Eugene Tardy referred questions to District Attorney Sherry Caloia, whose first day on the job was Tuesday.

The district attorney’s investigation included a canvass of the votes and calls to registered voters whose ballots weren’t recorded, to be certain that they in fact had not cast their ballots in the mail-in election, according to an affidavit by the investigators, which also noted that town officials were open and cooperative.

Among the findings of the investigation were that town officials prepared blank ballots and envelopes for mailing at home and that one official had her daughter assist in placing ballots in envelopes.

Colleen Brixius, the wife of Town Manager Peter Brixius, assisted on one occasion with organizing ballots, alphabetizing envelopes and checking signatures to make sure that the names matched up with those of registered voters.

“I was very suspicious when I heard what all was going on,” said Feller, who runs the town food bank. “I’m hoping the town will be aware of all the things they’re doing.”

Peter Brixius said his wife, who also is a Rio Blanco County elections official, has assisted town officials in two previous elections “and it hasn’t been an issue in the past.”

The ballots were counted by the town clerk and two appointed election judges.

Judge Nichols ordered that the town would be under a consent decree for eight years in which officials would allow only authorized persons to have access to ballots, to maintain the ballots securely, destroy documents according to state law, and appoint an appropriate number of election judges and deputies.


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