Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 12, 20183min686

It’s not often you see the Democratic Party intentionally driving traffic to Fox News. But the right-leaning network’s coverage of this week’s surprise announcement by GOP gubernatorial front-runner Walker Stapleton evidently created enough of an impression of “chaos” — Fox News’ word — in Colorado Republican ranks that it rated a press release from state Democratic spokesman Eric Walker.

You’ll recall Stapleton on Tuesday withdrew the petitions he’d submitted to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office to land a spot on the GOP primary ballot. He accused the firm that gathered signatures for him of engaging in “fraudulent conduct” and lying about it to his campaign as well as to state officials. Stapleton said he instead would try to qualify for the primary by seeking support from GOP delegates at the state party assembly in Boulder this Saturday.

The announcement was startling enough to make the national news cycle and land on Fox News’ radar, which in turn got Walker’s attention. His press release was headlined, “Fox News Calls Stapleton’s Petition Fraud a ‘Political Earthquake’ in Prime-Time National Report,” and led with, “Stapleton’s petition fraud scandal is making national news. Watch this segment on Stapleton’s signature fiasco from Fox News’s flagship prime-time broadcast, Special Report with Bret Baier …”

Of course, to whatever extent the Stapleton camp hoped to garner praise for doing the ethical thing — Tuesday’s announcement was an about-face; the campaign previously had stood by the petitions — there was no mention of that angle in Walker’s mass e-missive.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 11, 20185min1026

Former Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland wants to take down one of the judges who released a convicted serial child molester from his 324-year prison sentence in February. Reports the Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, Rowland — who now leads the county’s program advocating for abused and neglected children — is spearheading a campaign to oust Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Craig Welling when he faces a judicial retention election in 2020.

Welling is one of three judges on the panel who overturned Michael McFadden’s 2015 conviction by a Mesa County jury for molesting several young boys and girls. The appellate judges found that delays surrounding questions that McFadden’s lawyers had wanted to submit on the questionnaire for the jurors was a violation of  his right to a speedy trial.

Rowland, long prominent in West Slope Republican politics, may be familiar to Coloradans elsewhere in the state as the unsuccessful Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006. That was the year the GOP’s former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez lost the governor’s race to Democrat Bill Ritter. Rowland, who early in her career was a child-protection caseworker for the Mesa County Department of Human Services, is now executive director of CASA/Court Appointed Special Advocates of Mesa County.

Rowland’s campaign to persuade voters statewide to dump Welling is called Justice for All Colorado and is raising funds for the endeavor. Colorado judges are not elected directly to the bench but instead are appointed by the governor from lists of finalists recommended by the state’s judicial nominating commissions. Once appointed, judges — even the seven justices of the Colorado Supreme Court — subsequently face voters in retention elections. Rarely is anyone removed from the bench.

Why just Welling rather than either or both of the other two Court of Appeals judges who sided with him in the McFadden appeal? Rowland told the Daily Sentinel’s Erin McIntyre that one of the other judges has since retired, and the other isn’t up for a retention election until 2024.

McIntyre offers details of Justice for All Colorado’s planned campaign:

The group is in the beginning stages of raising money and registering as a political-action committee to campaign against Welling, and has set up a website at campaign will include videos, social media posts and advertising across media platforms, Rowland indicated. The group’s current goal is to raise $300,000 to $500,000 and the group is looking for campaign leaders in all 64 Colorado counties, since voters across the state can vote to retain Welling.

‘We’re not here to debate the legal aspects of this case,’ she told the group, stating that they were trying the case in the court of public opinion. ‘We’re trying this in the court of common decency.’

The ruling by the Court of Appeals has hit a nerve in Mesa County, and efforts are afoot by law enforcement there to put McFadden back behind bars, McIntyre reports:

Rowland said Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein is working to determine whether charges in an older case could be filed against McFadden.

When McFadden was initially released from prison, it was believed he didn’t have to register as a sex offender. However, a previous conviction of sexual assault on a child in 1990, involving an 8-year-old boy who had been sodomized, was used to require his registration. He had been released from prison on parole in 2005. The crimes on the six children in the more recent case happened not long after that, between 2008 and 2012, and he was arrested in 2013.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 11, 20184min376

Hot Sheet’s Kara Mason reported last month on the arrest of Fremont County Clerk and Recorder Katie Barr on embezzlement and other charges. Her legal travails stemmed from an alleged check-kiting scheme that law enforcement officials say she ran through the clerk’s office. The stunning allegations culminating in Barr’s arrest have rocked the county and, according to other elected officials, have demoralized the clerk’s office staff.

However things turn out for Barr in the court system, you’d think the first order of business for Fremont County government would be to pick a new clerk. It’s a critical post, after all, among other duties overseeing county, state and school board elections for the county.

Problem is, Barr so far hasn’t resigned. She even remained a candidate for re-election despite the arrest, as Mason noted. And until and unless she is convicted, she can’t be removed from office.

As the Pueblo Chieftain reports this week, the stalemate prompted Fremont County commissioners on Tuesday to vote for a “no confidence” finding regarding Barr’s continued presence in the clerk’s office. Commissioners also presented Barr with a letter last week asking her to step aside. They shared their letter with the press, which the Chieftain’s Tracy Harmon quotes at length:

‘Although official charges have not been filed, your arrest affidavit includes accusations of multiple felonies as well as misdemeanors. This case could linger on in the court system for months while continuing to damage the county’s reputation,’ the letter reads.

‘Employees in the clerk and recorder’s office are in an untenable situation since they are the very people you are accused of intimidating. They are working incredibly hard every single day to defend the job they do, while assuring customers they are not going to steal public money — your employees deserve better,’ the letter reads.

And this:

‘Your sporadic attendance at work since the end of September when the investigation surrounding your eventual arrest began, proves you are not serious about doing your job. This controversy is hurting everyone in Fremont County.

‘The public no longer should be forced to fund extended vacation time for you,’ the letter reads.

Harmon recaps details of the criminal allegations against Barr:

Barr was arrested March 20 for investigation of felony embezzlement of public funds, witness intimidation, fraud by check and misdemeanor harassment. She is due to return to court for filing of charges April 18.

According to an affidavit, Barr, 37, had written numerous checks to various financial establishments where she and her husband Chad Barr, who owns Rocky Mountain Auto and Diesel, had insufficient funds. The affidavit alleges the activity started in January 2011 after Barr had been elected county clerk in November 2010.

She allegedly developed a “check kiting” scheme that would allow her to write personal checks, obtain cash from the clerk’s office and deposit the cash into a personal account to cover the previously written personal checks. The scheme allegedly involved 254 checks which totaled $238,804.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 10, 201818min966

No wonder Matt Moseley has survived and thrived in the political realm; he's accustomed to swimming with sharks. In his case, literally. The Denver-based communications and media consultant — a veteran of the Colorado Capitol as well as the campaign trail — is also a record-setting open-water swimmer who most recently crossed a stretch of the Caribbean without the benefit of a shark cage.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 4, 20182min1540

Mesa County clerk and recorder candidate Bobbie Gross is currently the manager of motor vehicle registration for the Clerk and Recorder’s Office. But it’s the way she manages her own motor vehicle that is giving her opponent fits.

Reports the Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, rival candidate Tina Peters complained to Mesa County commissioners this week that Gross’s daily use of a high-visibility parking place near her office to showcase her car — emblazoned on the side with, “Bobbie Gross for Mesa County Clerk & Recorder” — amounts to a violation of campaign law.

Turns out, as the Sentinel’s Gary Harmon notes, Peters probably doesn’t have much of a case against Gross after all: The car is in fact on a private lot even though it’s near the Clerk & Recorder’s Office, so there doesn’t appear to be any misuse of public funding or facilities to promote a candidacy. And even if Gross had parked her mobile billboard on public property, she likely is within her First Amendment rights to tout herself on her own vehicle. It’s kind of like those cars you see festooned with bumper stickers around election time; free speech.

All of which prompted Mesa County commissioners to sidestep Peters’s attempt to insert them into the controversy:

“I’m real uneasy” about wading into the issue, Commissioner Scott McInnis said, suggesting that Peters might be better off referring her doubts to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

Gross and Peters are vying to replace current Clerk Sheila Reiner, who is term-limited.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 30, 20182min500

…The Secretary of State’s Office’s Julia Sunny, writing for Lynn Bartels’s blog, offers a solid and helpful overview of the many candidates and issues facing voters on local ballots across this vast state of ours this coming Tuesday. From setting up local broadband service to allowing retail pot sales (state law allows local opt-in/opt-out), to taxes and term limits, local issues run the gamut.

Here’s a smattering of the ballot issues up for grabs:

… Firestone, Frisco, Lake City, Limon, Lyons and Severance will ask their voters for authorization to move forward in providing broadband. …

… Naturita voters will decide whether to allow marijuana sales, manufacturing, testing or cultivation, as well as whether to implement a marijuana sales tax and/or excise tax. Berthoud is asking their voters if municipally licensed medical marijuana dispensaries should be allowed to add retail sales. …

… Pagosa Springs voters will consider whether to impose term limits of two consecutive four-year terms, voters in Glendale will decide if their mayor and council members shall be limited to three consecutive four-year terms …

… Morrison and Palmer Lake voters will decide whether to move their regular town elections to November of even-numbered years. …

And of course there’s the usual bevy of tax issues, including a tobacco tax on the ballot in Basalt, a tax extension for the museum and street improvements in La Veta, the  extension of a tax for a family rec center in Cortez — the list goes on. And on.

That’s just scratching the surface; read Sunny’s full blog post for much more depth. Here’s the link again.