Something’s rotten in Denmark. Well, actually here in Longmont. Something about the preliminary findings that the Longmont Election Committee has done so far just didn’t pass the smell test for me – and now I know why.
A fair chunk of the people chosen for this committee had the full backing of the Benker Bloc, which is no surprise and I guess is their right as they were elected. (Full disclosure, I volunteered for this committee to make a point. But oddly, and as I expected, I had 4 people vote against me, wanna guess who? Considering the fiasco the Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act and this committee have become, I couldn’t be more thrilled to not be a part of it). From the very first meeting (and I’m the only member of the public, other than most of the committee members, that has been to every EC meeting), some members were concerned with possible conflicts of interest over past associations and contributions to candidates.
This became much more of an issue when it was time to do the first set of preliminary findings that were based on complaints by Council member Karen Benker. Election Committee member Marilyn Hughes had to make a “declaration of association”, saying “earlier this year before the campaign season started, I did write a letter to the editor of the Longmont Times-Call and it was published where I supported a number of endeavors that Councilwoman Benker was instrumental.” She didn’t believe she needed to recuse herself – and didn’t. She had, and has, to repeat this for every single hearing.
Well, I found it. It was on June 14, 2009. Depending on how you view when the “campaign season started” keep in mind that Ms. Benker’s challenger for the Ward 2 seat, Katie Witt, filed for her candidacy on March 6, 2009. Three months before Ms. Hughes op-ed.
But what is the Election Committee’s view of when the “campaign season” starts? One only has to go back to the October 19, 2009 Election Committee meeting to find out. On this night, Karen Benker’s complaint against Greg Burt was tossed out as it fell outside the 90 day window before an election, therefore not meeting the definition of “electioneering“. Some EC members said maybe the election cycle should be changed to election year. Why not go with infinity, plus one? Another member asked about when other candidates announced their candidacy, hinting that’s when the election cycle, or campaign season, started.
But more to the campaign season and Ms. Hughes timeline:
March 6 – Katie Witt announces she’s running for Karen Benker’s Ward 2 seat
April 1 – Ms. Hughes encourages fellow Longmont Area Democrats at their meeting to submit their names for the Election Committee
April 28 – Ms. Hughes’ is appointed to the Election Committee (Benker voted for her)
June 14 – Ms. Hughes’ overly favorable Karen Benker Open Forum letter in the Times-Call
August 2 – Karen Benker announces candidacy
I’m willing to bet a cheeseburger that Ms. Hughes heard about Ms. Witt’s announced candidacy, and/or saw this quote from Ms. Benker: “declaring your intent to run for City Council office in March, I think, is way premature. It’s too early. This is not a presidential race; this is not a congressional race; this is Longmont City Council. Let’s get some perspective here.” And while I acknowledge that it was a different election cycle (a whole 2 years ago), Ms. Hughes donated $150 in cash and in-kind contributions to Ms. Benker as well.
Based on all of the above, Ms. Hughes should have recused herself from the discussion and votes on these, and any future cases involving Ms. Benker. Ms. Hughes was the acting Chair for the first round of preliminary findings and drove the discussion. All of the preliminary findings found in the positive regarding Karen Benker should summarily be disregarded and the process needs to be started over from the beginning.