Thursday, March 12, 2015

Judge's findings on recall withheld

Posted By on Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 3:18 PM

click to enlarge Robert Blancken stands at a podium presenting his case against the recall petitions before Judge Hayden Kane on March 2. City Clerk Sarah Johnson sits in the background. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Robert Blancken stands at a podium presenting his case against the recall petitions before Judge Hayden Kane on March 2. City Clerk Sarah Johnson sits in the background.

We thought that by now we'd be telling you about the recommendation from Municipal Judge Hayden Kane regarding the protest of petitions filed to recall City Councilor Helen Collins.

But noooooooo.

Kane turned in his findings to City Clerk Sarah Johnson, who's refusing to release them until she issues her ruling. We haven't been told when that might be, other than "as soon as possible," according to city spokeswoman Kim Melchor.

Melchor's full email response to our request for Kane's decision:
This is not an issue of lack of transparency, Judge Kane's findings is an active document the City Clerk is using to make her final determination.

Sarah Johnson stated to Mr. Blancken that Judge Kane's findings will be adopted as part of her final determination. This document was provided to Sarah Johnson and is a working document until her final determination is made. However, she is working to make her determination as soon as possible. I can enter your request for Judge Kane's recommendation as an official CORA and let that process run its course.

To reiterate, Judge Kane's findings will be an integral part of the final determination and will be released in their entirety when the City Clerk releases her determination.
To recap, Collins is under recall in the April 7 election by a few people led by former Harrison District 2 board member Deborah Hendrix, because Collins hangs out with a tax cheat, Douglas Bruce, (though Hendrix herself is in hot water with the IRS) and doesn't represent the wishes of the southeast District 4. Collins has since been accused of an ethics violation regarding a property transaction involving Bruce.

Hendrix's group is being financed by Colorado Springs Government Watch, run by Dede Laugesen of Monument, wife of Gazette editorial page editor Wayne, to the tune of $14,000 used to pay out-of-state signature gatherers without disclosing where the money specifically came from. As a footnote, Dede Laugesen has called for transparency and accountability in city government.

Whether the recall votes will be counted in the city election hinges on Johnson's decision.

For his part, Blancken isn't very happy with the city clerk's not releasing Kane's findings. Here's a news release he issued on Wednesday:
Robert Blancken was forced to file an official CORA Request with the City of Colorado Springs because Clerk Sarah Johnson refused to disclose Judge HayDen Kane's initial opinion/findings regarding Mr. Blancken's Recall Protest.

Judge Kane's opinion/findings were made available to Clerk Johnson on March 10th, 2015. Mr. Blancken and the Recall Petition Committee were promised immediate access to Judge Kane's opinion/findings during the Protest Hearing that was conducted on March 2nd, 2015.

Mr. Blancken stated, "I spoke with Clerk Johnson and she refused to provided his initial findings. Given this willful disregard for transparency on the part of Clerk Johnson, I had no choice but to submit a CORA Request and notify the public of her egregious misdeed."

Judge Kane did communicate that his findings would be made available to both Mr. Blancken and the Recall Petition Committee, as well as the public.

Mr. Blancken has requested a one-on-one meeting with the Mayor to further discuss these issues. At this time, no meeting has been scheduled by the Mayor's office.

Mr. Blancken went on to say, "It's a sad day in our city when public employees like Clerk Johnson behave in this manner. It appears she is doing everything within her power to ensure this recall occurs despite the legitimate evidence I presented. Clerk Johnson is ultimately accountable to the taxpayers, but her actions continually demonstrate her contempt for the citizens of this city. Perhaps that is why the city wouldn't allow me to address her involuntary dismissal from her previous employment during the Recall Protest Hearing. The powers that be probably do not want the public to know that she is unfit for duty. A bipartisan committee in Kentucky knew that and dismissed her, when will our Mayor and Council do the same?"
The Independent reported Johnson's dismissal years ago.

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