Mark Grueskin reads specific complaints about a petition during his opening remarks at a protest against Mayor Mike Coffman’s so-called “strong mayor” ballot initiative Aug. 30, 2023 in city council chambers at the Aurora Municipal Center. PHOTO BY PHILIP POSTON, Sentinel Colorado
Philip Poston

AURORA | Aurora’s city clerk on Monday ruled against the opponents of a proposal to empower the city’s mayor, saying the petitions used to collect signatures from registered voters to get the proposal on the ballot are acceptable under city law.

Despite that, the measure will not appear on the fall ballot.

The campaign has announced that it is no longer seeking to bring the matter before voters in 2023, with some key deadlines having been missed. However, supporters say they plan to resume the campaign and bring the proposal back for a vote in 2025. Whether they are allowed to do this under applicable election law remains to be seen.

Charlie Richardson — the former city official who submitted the written protest of the petition forms on behalf of a group opposed to the strong-mayor proposal — said opponents have yet to decide what they want to do in response to the clerk’s ruling.

“We’re disappointed,” he said. “Obviously. It was a tall mountain to climb, to ask the city clerk to invalidate the petition when she approved everything at the outset.”

Aurora City Clerk Kadee Rodriguez ruled on Richardson’s protest even though it had to do with whether the petition created by her office and the city attorney’s office complied with city code.

When asked how the city would mitigate potential conflicts of interest in the case, city spokesman Ryan Luby previously said that the city had hired outside legal counsel to assist during the hearings but that they were “bound by city code which states that the city clerk is the hearing officer who must issue written decisions on the hearings.”

Suzanne Taheri, an attorney representing the strong-mayor campaign, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the clerk’s ruling.

In the protest and at a hearing Aug. 30, attorney Mark Grueskin argued on behalf of Richardson that the pages signed by voters were invalid because they didn’t include a summary of the proposal and a warning identifying who was eligible to sign and directing voters to read the language of the amendment or the summary.

While Rodriguez wrote in her ruling that Richardson’s arguments had been “persuasive,” she ultimately found that RIchardson “did not meet his burden of proving the petition is insufficient as required in Section 54‐146 of the Aurora City Code regarding the printing of the warning and summary.”

She similarly dismissed opponents’ objection to voters’ city of residence not being included in the area of the signatures pages where they wrote their addresses, calling it “hyper-technical” and saying she had been able to verify that those people were registered electors using the other information in the petition and voting records.

Grueskin brought up during the hearing that some people signed the petition and later said they were misled by the people who presented them with the petition forms. Rodriguez wrote in her ruling that she had also ruled on specific requests to remove signatures. The other rulings published by the city indicate a total of six signatures were removed at the request of citizens.

Finally, although Richardson argued that voters who didn’t include their apartment number in their residential address when signing the petition should have their signatures invalidated, Rodriguez said agreeing with Richardson would mean invalidating the protest itself, since his own voter registration includes a unit number that he didn’t include when he wrote his information on the protest.

Richardson disputed this and said he lives in a standalone townhome that does not have a unit number.

Luby said the city would issue a news release about the ruling and that the clerk would make a final declaration of whether the petition is sufficient later.

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1 Comment

  1. thanks Charlie and Mark Grueskin for all you did to bring light to the sneaky attempt of Coffman to gain power and control over the Aurora City Council and citizens of Aurora.

    It’s pretty screwed up that the person who prepared the faulty petition would be the person to decide if it was done correctly. It wasn’t.

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