Recall repeat: part one

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A scene from the protest hearing during the first attempt to recall RBC Commissioner Gary Moyer. Moyer did not attend the hearing in person, appearing with his attorney virtually. | LUCAS TURNER PHOTO

RBC | “You take close to 900 people in 38 days, that should send a statement on how they feel,” said former RBC Road and Bridge director Dave Morlan to the HT this week, referencing the 879 signatories who put their name on a petition to recall RBC Commissioner Gary Moyer. 

Morlan, who worked at the county for more than 30 years, decided to lead the recall effort following a January board of commissioners meeting, where commissioners voted 3-0 against reappointing him as road and bridge director, a title he had held for 17 years. According to Morlan, this would have been his last year in the position before retiring.

“I’m just one of many,” said Morlan, emphasizing that his loss of employment and personal conflicts with Moyer were just a small part of what motivated him and fellow petitioners to begin collecting signatures.

“It seems to me like, when I stepped up to do it, people were just waiting for somebody to step up and take the bull by the horns.” 

FIRST RECALL

Morlan’s grounds for the first recall included statements about Moyer’s conduct as a commissioner, including that Moyer:

• verbally abused and made unsubstantiated claims against Public Health staff in a meeting on Feb 9, 2021 

• misused power by indimitating and terminating long-term dedicated employees without having a replacement plan – creating a “leadership void” which fostered a fearful/hostile work environment for remaining employees

• was instrumental in attempts to eliminate the RBC dispatch center without giving citizens or the Sheriff the opportunity to voice their concerns

• has “repeatedly demonstrated a total lack of transparency in the manner in which he has conducted County business”

RBC Clerk and Recorder Boots Campbell and her staff assisted Morlan with the initial petition process on Feb, 26, 2021, including approving the language of the recall grounds and petition format, and printing petition sections for circulation. Campbell asserts that upon approving the petition, as required by law, she mailed the notice of the approval to both Dave Morlan and Gary Moyer.

Campbell additionally was the first eligible elector to sign the petition, though her signature was later disqualified based on a notarization mistake. Hers was one of 68 signatures disqualified/invalidated for various reasons, leaving a total of 811 valid signatures for submission, which met the required sufficiency threshold of 749. In almost 20 years working for the county, Campbell said she could only remember two other recall attempts, both of which she said failed to move forward due to a lack of signatures.

The Clerk’s office determined the petition to be sufficient in late April. 

THE PROTEST

Following notifications of sufficiency to relevant parties, Commissioner Gary Moyer and son-in-law Matt Scott filed a protest to the petition, setting the stage for a special hearing on May 6, 2021. Though Clerk Campbell would normally oversee such a hearing, she recused herself by appointing attorney/part time judge Timothy Graves as the hearing officer.

Petition protestors (represented by Attorney Suzanne Taheri of Maven Law Group) challenged the validity of the recall for several stated reasons, including:

• The Petition format was not approved, nor was notice provided to Protestor Moyer prior to circulation.

• The Petition contains false statements in its grounds for recall, in summary: 1. “Moyer terminated a county employee in his capacity as County Commissioner” and 2. “Moyer was instrumental in an attempt to close a county dispatch center without allowing citizens and governmental departments the opportunity to comment on the closure.“

• That RBC Clerk Boots Campbell had a personal interest in the outcome of the recall and that this was a disqualifying interest.

• That Campbell’s alleged “disqualifying interest,” among other things should lead to nullification of all sections notarized by Campbell, a total of 318 signatures.

As the HT reported on May 8, 2021, designated hearing officer Timothy Graves ruled in favor of the protestors, invalidating the petition based on three specific procedural errors. As per Colorado Revised Statutes 1-40-112 and 1-40-113:

• petition circulators must wear proper identification while collecting signatures

• petition sections are required to be pre-numbered serially

• a printer’s proof must be provided to the clerk 

Because these requirements were not met by the petition committee and Clerk Campbell, the petition was declared insufficient and invalid. 

Graves’ did not rule in favor of protestors on any other challenges. In his ruling he specifies that claims regarding alleged false statements, disqualifying interests of Campbell, and failure to notify Moyer of the approved petition were unsubstantiated. He notes in all instances not regarding procedural errors, that “the protestor failed to prove this challenge by a preponderance of the evidence.” 

OPPOSING VIEWPOINTS

RBC Commissioner Gary Moyer has from the start of the recall process denied all claims made by Morlan and others about his conduct in elected office, describing the entire recall campaign as “a nasty smear.” Moyer has repeatedly expressed interest in moving on so that he and fellow commissioners can focus on issues facing the county. 

Supporters of Moyer’s, including fellow petition protestor Matt Scott have all made similar remarks, including claims that the recall is a “liberal scam.” Others have also called into question the legitimacy of both Morlan and Campbell’s testimony during the May 6 hearing, despite the statements in Graves’ ruling. 

Protestors’ Attorney Suzanne Taheri also pointed out other elements of Campbell’s testimony, including that Campbell did not send notice of the petition’s approval to Morlan/Moyer as certified mail, or by email. Taheri noted that this seemed strange, since other recall-related communications had been sent as certified mail and via email. Additional details about the hearing from Taheri can be found in her letter to the editor below this article

Following the invalidation of the recall petition by Graves, RBC Clerk and Recorder Boots Campbell submitted a letter to the HT noting that she was unaware of the specific statutes that invalidated the petition. She later told the HT that she was not made aware of those specific requirements by her “attorney contacts at the Secretary of State’s office,” whom she said she “keeps on speed dial.” In her letter, Campbell also expressed the sentiment “lesson learned” noting that the procedural errors would not happen again.

RECALL REPEAT

After some consideration, Dave Morlan and other petition circulators have decided to pursue Moyer’s recall for a second time. 

Reflecting on some criticisms noted by protestors in the May 6 hearing and considering additional input from interested parties, the recall grounds for round two of the petition have been revised. Specific changes include stating that Moyer “participated in” alleged actions regarding the termination of long-term employees, and removing the dispatch center. Prior language noted that Moyer was “instrumental,” in those actions. Updated grounds also note removal of language about a treatment of public health staff at a past meeting, instead alleging that Moyer has been “instrumental in undermining Rio Blanco County Public Health’s efforts…”

Morlan noted that from the petitioner’s view, the invalidation of the first petition based on procedural grounds did not invalidate the main substance of the petition, namely the grounds listed for recalling Moyer.

In the opinion section this week, Commissioner Moyer has submitted a letter listing the updated grounds for recall, along with his rebuttals. The HT reached out to Moyer this week with questions about the recall so as to include his views in this article, as well as questions seeking further clarification of statements made in his letter to the editor this week. That letter has been printed in its entirety beginning on PAGE 5A and continuing below this article. Moyer informed the HT he “had not had time to adequately respond” on short notice.

The second round of petitions are currently being circulated. Petitioners have 60 days to gather the necessary 749 signatures. 

CORA REQUESTS

The HT has submitted Colorado Open Records Act requests for various documentation surrounding the grounds for recall and allegations made by both sides, and is awaiting receipt of that information for further reporting. 


By LUCAS TURNER | lucas@ht1885.com

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  1. Recall repeat, part two: let’s talk transparency | Rio Blanco Herald Times | Serving Meeker, Rangely, Dinosaur & Northwest Colorado

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