Last month, three people filed an affidavit with the City Clerk's Office seeking petitions to recall City Councilor Helen Collins in April's election. Besides alleging that Collins is out of step with her southeast district constituents and that she should have supported a stormwater fee that voters defeated in November, they said she associates with a criminal suspect and a person "who served time for tax evasion."
Those statements apparently relate to Collins' description of convicted murderer Bruce Nozolino as a "friend" in court testimony last year, and her associations with anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce, convicted of tax evasion.
But one of the recall agents, Deborah Hendrix, herself has a tax lien from the IRS, as well as a criminal conviction involving children.
Hendrix, the former Harrison School District 2 board president who ran against Collins in 2013, says via email that the recall effort apparently has "hit a nerve," prompting efforts at "dredging up" dirt on the recall organizers. She downplays the lien, which came Nov. 28 from the IRS against her and her husband, Charles, seeking taxes due for 2008 through 2013. The total is $21,982.26.
"I have a payment plan of back taxes owed by my husband and me," she writes. "A lien was processed about two months ago because we couldn't come to agreement with an IRS agent. Found another agent and we resolved the dispute. We have been paying on these taxes — so this is not something new."
In addition, Hendrix was charged 11 years ago with child abuse-negligence-no injury stemming from a March 16, 2003, incident, according to a District Court register of actions.
The case was resolved April 30, 2003, after Hendrix pleaded guilty to a Class 3 misdemeanor and received a deferred sentence. She also paid $138 in court costs and victim assistance and compensation charges, and was ordered to complete parenting classes. The deferred sentence was lifted on March 30, 2004.
Hendrix says the case arose from her leaving her daughters, ages 10 and 6, in her car when she went into a Safeway store to buy tomatoes. "I was given a ticket for Child neglect," she writes. "I met with a counselor as required by the courts and the case was dismissed."
Hendrix started the recall along with Harrison Board President Victor Torres and Harrison coordinator of student services Woody Longmire.
Asked who's funding the recall, Hendrix referred questions to Colorado Springs Government Watch, a recently formed nonprofit group. Government Watch announced Sunday that it "endorses" the recall effort. The group's director, DeDe Laugesen, wife of Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen, says it's providing petition circulators. The group sent Collins two open-records requests in the last month asking for her correspondence with Nozolino and Bruce, among other things.
Collins disputes the grounds for recall. She argues that she's very much in step with her constituents, noting that all but one of the 17 precincts within her Council district voted down the stormwater measure. "The people in my district cannot afford any more utility rate hikes, any tax hikes," she says. "They just can't afford it." And she noted that the convictions of Nozolino and Bruce are both under appeal.
She declined to comment on Hendrix's tax and criminal record.
Recall petitions are due to the City Clerk's Office on Thursday to make the April 7 city ballot; 1,485 valid signatures are required.