The Colorado Secretary of State’s office said it will issue an initial determination in regards to a complaint alleging city officials violated campaign finance laws during the campaign to pass a public-safety ballot measure in April 2019.

In late February 2019, the Secretary of State dismissed the complaint because it said it did not have jurisdiction over the case. The Denver District Court disagreed and in December remanded the case back to the state.

The complaint — filed with the Elections Division of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office by Grand Junction resident Dennis Simpson — alleged city officials unlawfully lobbied for and handed out improper materials related to ballot measure 2B, which raised city sales taxes to fund police, fire and emergency services.

The complaint named City Manager Greg Caton, Councilor Phyllis Norris and Councilor Duke Wortmann, and centered on a Feb. 4 luncheon hosted by the Mesa County Republican Women. During a presentation councilors handed out materials that included the headline: “A city sales tax increase to build a safer and stronger community. It just makes sense.”

The state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act prohibits cities from spending money to advocate in favor of or against any ballot measure.

On Jan. 8, the state notified Simpson that it would review the case under the Rules Concerning Campaign and Political Finance. In the notification it said the Elections Division would make an initial determination within 10 business days.

Senior Assistant to the City Manager Greg LeBlanc said the city was aware that the issue was back before the Secretary of State and that City Attorney John P. Shaver would advise the council and city manager.

Simpson said he did not want the result of the election, in which voters passed the tax increase, to be overturned by the state. Rather he said he hoped the court would rule that what the city did was wrong and would set a precedent that would prevent similar activity in the future.

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