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Publish Date: 3/25/2005

Former Platteville mayor may face legal bill


Platteville’s former mayor and another resident may have to pick up the town’s legal tab after they challenged the February recall election in court, then withdrew the complaint last week.

Platteville trustees directed attorney Rick Samson to bill ex-Mayor William “Bud” Manker and Carole Schleif for the time he spent preparing the town’s case. Manker and Schleif filed their complaint Feb. 22 after Manker was recalled.

Samson said Wednesday he was ready to fight accusations that the town administrator, the town clerk and four trustees made mistakes and committed fraud — including wrongly turning away registered voters — during the Feb. 8 recall election.

A hearing was originally scheduled for this week, but Manker and Schleif withdrew the complaint March 18, saying they decided to have the “Weld County District Attorney’s Office pursue prosecution of any illegal actions” made by town officials during the election.

However, an investigation by the Weld County district attorney earlier this month found no evidence of criminal misconduct by town leaders during the election. The investigator told Manker on March 16 that charges wouldn’t be filed against town officials.

“There were no major problems with the election,” Samson said. “(Town clerk Leah Heneger) conducted an almost-perfect election. It is only Mr. Manker’s opinion that the election was run incorrectly.”

Trustees Gloria Callow, Steven Shafer and Wilber Olin successfully fought off recall in the election. Dan Coulter was recalled as a trustee but took over as mayor from Manker, who also was recalled. Tammy Garrett took over Coulter’s trustee slot.

Manker and Schleif, who was vying for Olin’s seat, claimed there weren’t enough election judges working at all times and questioned whether one judge took an oath to serve.

Colorado law allows an election to start without all three judges. All of the recall election judges took an oath and signed a poll book, including one judge who arrived late, according to the town.

Manker and Schleif contend that at least two voters who were turned away from the polls shouldn’t have been.

Heneger called Weld County election officials during the election to determine whether three different people could vote. One had registered 11 days before the election. One had never been registered. The third was not registered at the time of the election. All three were turned away, and rightly so, according to Heneger.

Manker said last week he still believes the town acted improperly during the election.

“People had donated money to Mr. Coulter. On his financial statement, (they) didn’t list their occupation or employer,” Manker said, claiming the omissions are violations of election laws. “That’s something we will take up with the secretary of state.”

Town officials acknowledge that official campaign financial statements don’t include donors’ employment or job titles, but they say they don’t have to.

“There’s nowhere for people to put that on the forms,” Heneger said.

Manker also said the newly hired town clerk was thrust into an election she was not qualified to run.

Samson said Heneger is qualified to run elections, though the recall election was the first over which she had presided. Heneger said she relied on the Weld County elections office and town attorney to help her run the election smoothly.

“I conducted the election as it should have been,” Heneger said.

Jenn Ooton can be reached at 303-684-5295, or by e-mail at jooton@times-call.com.

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