In her first public comments since going into hiding nearly two weeks ago, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters said “a liberal” has been named to replace her as the county’s designated election official.
Naming her predecessor, now Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner, the embattled Republican told My Pillow guy and voter-fraud conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell on his online show on Sunday that she didn’t trust her to take over elections in Mesa County.
Peters either didn’t know, or didn’t say, that the Mesa County Board of Commissioners had named former Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican, instead.
It started when Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold decertified the county’s election equipment over security breach issues last week, a breach Griswold said that Peters helped make happen, something that now is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Griswold, a Democrat, then named Reiner, who served as the GOP clerk before Peters won the job in 2018, to serve in that role.
That prompted Mesa County’s three commissioners, all Republicans, to name Williams, who served as secretary of state before Griswold, saying they, and not Griswold, had the authority to name a temporary election official.
“I am the designated election official (but) I’ve been replaced with a liberal designated election official, and my staff and I are not even allowed into my elections office,” Peters told Lindell when she appeared on his online show, “The Lindell Report,” which can be seen at lindelltv.com. “That’s how bad this has gotten.”
Other than Peters, Griswold’s order barring her from having anything to do with future elections included her deputy, Belinda Knisely, and one of her election managers, Sandra Brown, from accessing the elections office.
Six other elections workers, including Director of Elections Brandi Bantz, still have access and are not implicated in any wrongdoing.
Griswold’s office temporarily is prohibiting Peters from being the county’s top election official on allegations that she made or helped make copies of an election computer hard drive, gave an unauthorized person access to secure areas of the county’s Election Division, helped reveal special passwords to access election equipment and revealed it to voter-fraud conspiracy theorists.
Those conspiracy theorists later posted some of it on social media and during Lindell’s South Dakota voter-fraud conspiracy event Aug. 10-13, where he claimed it showed proof that Dominion Voting Systems, which Mesa and all but two Colorado counties use, was trying to cover up election fraud.
During the interview — it is unknown where Peters was when she gave it, but Lindell has said he’s protecting her in a secure location — the clerk admitted to intentionally making a copy of the hard drive days before and days after a May 25 update of the system.
She said she was requested to make a backup of the hard drive by Griswold’s office.
“I was concerned that vital statistics and information was being deleted from the system, or could be deleted from the system,” Peters said. “I wanted to preserve that. I was suspicious that something was happening to that information and decided to make an image before they came in.
“If you were an accountant and you had a spreadsheet of finances, and then a few months later you wanted to look at it, and you would see the difference,” Peters added. “That is what we were looking to preserve.”
Asked by Lindell’s co-host, Brannon Howse, if Reiner still had swipe-card access to the elections equipment, which she doesn’t, Peters said her attorney wouldn’t allow her to discuss that.
Peters also called Mesa County one of the last conservative counties in the state, and said that Democrats were trying to take it over. She claimed that she overheard Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, pushing to create Black Lives Matter groups in Delta and Montrose.
“I overheard it with my own ears,” she said. “There is a definite attempt to take over the Western Slope of Colorado.”
At the same time that Peters was appearing at Lindell events, where copies of the hard drive were shown, investigators executed a search warrant of Peters office, which Peters and Lindell repeatedly called “a raid.”
Peters said she was glad Griswold decertified the county’s machines, saying she preferred a hand count, but that’s not going to happen.
DOMINION CONTRACT COMING
Today, the commissioners are expected to approve a contract with Dominion to replace all of its decertified machines. That agreement calls for the county to get them for free, but to extend its contract with the Denver-based company into 2029 at a cost of $96,153 next year with a 2% annual increase each year thereafter. Its current contract is due to expire in 2023.
That contract also calls for a special program that would allow voters to see all ballot images at a per-service cost of $3,300.
At the commissioners’ meeting early Monday, a group of people who support Peters came before them, complaining about the commission naming Williams as the designated election official, saying they preferred deputy clerk Knisley instead.
They said Williams was not to be trusted, which prompted all three commissioners — Janet Rowland, Scott McInnis and Cody Davis — to double-down on their selection of Williams.
Rowland pointed out that a year ago, when Peters was facing a recall election and the commissioners similarly named an outside election official, that Peters and other Mesa County Republicans pushed for Williams to oversee that recall attempt instead of the person the commissioners did name, Eagle County Treasurer Teak Simonton, a onetime Republican who now is a Democrat.
“It was Tina Peters who personally asked to have Wayne Williams oversee her recall election,” Rowland said.
“She said, ‘He has extensive experience in election law, his resume and qualifications stand for themselves, and many of you know his integrity and his impartiality,’ ” Rowland added. “Those were Tina’s own words. If you do indeed support Tina, you would have to have both faith and confidence in ... Wayne because Tina did.”
McInnis added that he had a 45-minute telephone conversation with Peters at that time, saying she was “adamantly in support of Wayne Williams.”
McInnis said he also was concerned about some other comments during the Monday meeting “that came close to impugning people.”
Some disparaged Brandi Bantz, whom Peters hired last year as director of elections, falsely saying that Bantz’s husband worked for Bobbie Gross, the Republican Peters defeated in the June 2018 GOP primary and will face again in the June 2022 Republican Party primary in Peters’ re-election bid.
Bantz worked for Williams when he was still El Paso County clerk, the job he held before becoming secretary of state.
“The one who should be suspect is Brandi Bantz, who is in dereliction of her duty,” Mesa County resident Karen Seibold told the commissioners. “Ms. Bantz was privy to information regarding the secretary of state’s intention, and the Dominion altering events that was to take place. She conveniently took vacation during that time.”
Seibold posted the Peters-Lindell interview on her Facebook page.
Bantz actually was out sick during that May upgrade, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Williams has called for Peters to resign, but only if allegations that she violated the law prove to be true.
On Sunday, The Daily Sentinel reported that Peters charged the county credit card $484 to purchase a United Airlines ticket to Lindell’s South Dakota event, but it was unclear if she didn’t actually get there on a private jet instead.
On Lindell’s Monday program, he admitted that he flew Peters to that event on his private jet, and then later to Texas, where he is hiding her in an unknown hotel.