A fraudulent scheme, orchestrated by El Paso County's top Republican official and designed to sway voters to vote for candidates Ed Jones, Dan Stuart and Wayne Allard, was shut down this week by the city's parking enforcement division.
On Tuesday, Colorado Springs Parking Administrator Greg Warnke yanked the hoods off of two parking meters directly in front of downtown's Centennial Hall after he learned that the meters were being used illegally.
"To be 100 percent honest, we have not had a complaint like this in well over two years," Warnke said. "There are 2,000 sets of eyes out there; parking is at a premium, and we have rules."
Rules that Chuck Broerman, the chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party, violated. Beginning on Monday, the first day of early voting, Broerman parked two trucks in the spots directly in front of Centennial Hall downtown -- one of three early-voting sites in El Paso County.
Those trucks were heavily decorated with oversized political signs promoting Republican state Senate District 11 candidate Ed Jones, House District 18 candidate Dan Stuart and U.S. Senate candidate Wayne Allard.
In an attempt to reserve the parking spots at all times through Nov. 1, Broerman fraudulently obtained parking-meter hoods from the City of Colorado Springs, claiming the permits were for legitimate construction use.
Specifically, the city issues parking-meter hoods to construction and moving companies to park for extended periods close to project sites. Between 20 and 100 such hoods are on the streets at any given time, Warnke said.
Violating the rules
In his application, Broerman identified the "job site" at 210 S. Cascade Ave. -- a nonexistent address. On Tuesday, Warnke walked down to Centennial Hall at 200 S. Cascade Ave. and learned that no construction was taking place inside the building. That day, he revoked the permits.
"There are rules that have to be followed, and if you choose to violate the rules, that's of your own doing," Warnke said.
Though the city rules specify that Broerman could have faced additional fines for illegal parking, Warnke said he decided to charge $40 -- the cost of two hoods for one week's time.
On Tuesday, Broerman, who has headed the El Paso County Republican Party since 1999, defended his actions as a "unique" attempt designed to sway voters to elect Jones, Stuart and Allard.
"We're just trying to help educate the voter to make a decision when they go vote," Broerman said. "We're working hard for victories in November."
But Tony Marino, the Democrat running against Ed Jones, expressed disgust.
"It's arrogant to do something fraudulent or illegal in an election where we want to address the issues that people are concerned about," Marino said. "It doesn't make any difference if it's putting hoods over meters, placing signs in the median in front of Centennial Hall or stealing yard signs."
Marino and Democrat Mike Merrifield -- who is running a tight race against Stuart -- have both complained of being targets of these activities during this campaign season.
Broerman signed off
Broerman said that he devised the scheme after he was told that construction companies could obtain hoods for parking meters for $4 a day.
Colorado Springs resident Larry Courkamp, a Republican activist who owns a small construction company, offered Broerman the use of his company's name, Broerman said.
Broerman claimed that he had no idea that when using the parking-meter hoods, contractors were actually supposed to use them for work purposes.
"We never specified we were doing construction; we said we wanted a parking permit for a contractor," Broerman said.
However, the city's application for parking-meter hoods includes a section that requires applicants to agree that they have "received and will comply with the provisions of the Rules and Regulations for extended use of Parking Meters."
A review of Broerman's application shows that he personally signed off on the section and stipulated he had read the rules.
The page-long list of rules and regulations specifies that permits can be issued to contractors "to allow vehicles that are actively engaged in repair work, remodeling, new construction, or furnishing tools, supplies and equipment to reserve meters in the immediate vicinity of such work."
The rules note that permits are "not intended to provide reserved parking for any vehicles not so engaged."
"Any use other than that specified shall be considered cause for revocation of such permit without refund, in addition to fines provided for illegal parking."
Now that his permits are gone, Broerman said that he plans to continue parking the trucks near Centennial Hall, and plugging the meters, which -- if he doesn't move them within the time restriction allotted -- is also illegal.
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