Despite claims to the contrary from Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, having to run their own elections last April cost Fruita and Palisade far more than normal.
In fact, it cost Fruita about twice as much to operate its own city elections this year, while Palisade spent nearly three times as much.
The two municipalities were forced to conduct their own elections for the first time in decades when Peters told them that the clerk’s elections division wouldn’t do so.
At the time, she said it was because the office was too busy conducting the first presidential primary in Colorado since 2000, which was held two months earlier in February.
As a result, Fruita spent $19,476 to conduct its April 7 election compared to the $10,215 that it spent in April 2018, City Clerk Margaret Sell said, adding that those figures don’t include labor costs.
At the same time, Palisade spent $10,417 for its April races, about $6,500 more than it spent in April 2018.
Both municipalities’ costs could have been higher, but an equipment-sharing agreement between the two helped keep it down.
Palisade paid Fruita $2,000 for use of its tabulation machines.
The questions each had on the ballot this year were identical to 2018.
In both years, Fruita voters elected a mayor, three city council members and considered one ballot question.
Palisade had its mayor and three council seats up for grabs in both year’s elections.
In its petitions to recall Peters, the group backing it, RecallClerkTina.com, cites numerous reasons why it believes Peters should be recalled, including ending a long-standing relationship with local municipalities to operate their coordinated elections, a practice that can be traced back for at least 30 years.
The recall group said Peters’ decision ended up costing taxpayers more money, but in a rebuttal of those accusations emailed to her supporters earlier this month asking them not to join the effort to recall her, Peters wrote this about that accusation:
“False statement regarding the increase (sic) cost to taxpayer (sic),” she wrote. “Municipalities pay election expenses whether conducted by Mesa County Elections, or the Municipality.”
Peters, who did not immediately respond to questions about the costs, said the local municipalities “understood” her reasons.
At the time, however, officials in both expressed dismay at the decision.
Peters also said the Secretary of State’s Office referred municipalities to “the Municipal Election League,” but no such group exists.
The Colorado Municipal League, however, said at the time that it didn’t know about Peters’ decision, and offered help to local communities after being informed of it by The Daily Sentinel.
Peters also said the office “asked us and other counties” not to conduct municipal elections in April, but office spokesman Steve Hurlbert said that was a recommendation and not a directive.