The District Attorney's Office launched, and then dropped, an investigation into what has become a bitter campaign sign war between two candidates for county commissioner -- Bob Null and Douglas Bruce.
Assistant District Attorney Dan May last week looked into allegations by Null that Bruce campaigners lied to several Colorado Springs residents, saying Null dropped out of the Nov. 2 election and then stole six of Null's four-by-four red-and-blue corrugated plastic campaign signs. But May said prosecutors weren't able to prove any of the assertions, in part because of paperwork Bruce campaigners required residents like Gene Browning to sign.
Browning, who lives on the busy corner of Galley Road and Murray Boulevard and had been a Null supporter, said Bruce supporters knocked on his door about two weeks ago and asked him for written permission to remove a large "Null for Commissioner" sign in his yard -- and replace it with a "Bruce for Commissioner" sign.
Browning said he agreed to let the campaign have the Null sign only because he was duped into thinking Null, a write-in candidate to represent Commissioner District 2, wasn't running anymore.
"'He dropped out of the race,'" Browning said. "That's what they told me."
May, however, noted that during his inquiry, Bruce produced separate forms that had been signed by six residents, including Browning, giving permission to remove Null's signs. The Bruce campaign, May noted, returned the campaign signs that Null said were stolen after he began investigating the claims.
For his part, Bruce now claims he was being maligned in a last-ditch dirty campaign tactic.
"This is a nothing-burger," he said.
Bruce said the idea to have residents sign forms giving his campaign permission to remove Null's signs from their property was his. As agents of the residents, the campaign workers then have the authority to legally remove the signs with written permission, he said.
The forms read: "I reside at this address. I do not want Bob Null signs on my property. I have asked that Bob Null signs be removed. I will allow any Null signs to be picked up for one week after the election."
The forms also provided a spot for residents to sign so that campaigners replace Null signs with Bruce signs.
Bruce called the forms "clear and unequivocal," but Jamye Fraser, a Null worker, wants May to revisit his decision. She said the forms were "worded defectively" and could have confused residents.
"We're taking this back to the DA," she said. "This is a fraud that's been perpetrated."
Browning says Bruce has lost his vote, but Bruce, who says he plans to call Browning to sort things out, said his campaigners would never purposefully mislead a voter. Bruce said there could have been a misunderstanding because his campaigners are telling voters that Null is a write-in candidate and was not elected in primaries to be the legitimate representative of the Republican Party.
Meanwhile, both campaigns blame each other for hundreds of missing campaign signs that have cost hundreds of dollars and wasted time.
-- Michael de Yoanna