Benker’s complaint costs city hundreds

At the October 26 Election Committee meeting, one of the many complaints that Karen Benker has brought forward was found to be a violation, with a fine of $600.  This was in reference to Longmont Leadership Committee for filing a report of an Independent Expenditure 3 days beyond the 72 hour requirement.


So in the first completed action by this committee under the Longmont Fair Campaigns Act the city just netted $600.
Unfortunately, the cost to get that $600 was probably in excess of $1,800!
How’s that?  The special prosecutor they hired specifically to do these cases charges around $200 per hour, but the backup attorney stood in at $190/hour, he was there for 5 hours.  In addition, they also have a special counsel separate from the prosecutor, again hired specifically for this committee.  They charge $185/hour, she was also there for 5 hours, so put that all together and you end up with $1,875 spent to squeeze $600 out of an organization.
So the city just lost $1,275, and this case cost more than triple the amount of the fine leveled.
Brilliant.  And this case could have gone either way, imagine if no fine was leveled!
So when you people who have been very vocal about the City Council having no empathy for your financial situation – levying new taxes, I mean fees – now you have a poster child for it.  Karen Benker.  I expect she’ll be crowing about this “victory” (nevermind most of her other complaints, and those of her surrogates are getting tossed out by the Election Committee) and has no problem with the special prosecutor and special counsel she voted for being the only ones to actually make any money out of her hissy fit.  Meanwhile, us taxpayers pick up the tab.

Unethical Shaffer endorses unethical Benker

Color me skeptical, but I found the endorsement of Longmont City Council member Karen Benker by Colorado State Senator Brandon Shaffer fairly ironic – and pretty pointless.  Make no mistake, this was tactical as Mr. Shaffer ran against Ms. Benker’s opponent Katie Witt for State Senate last year.  People can point out that Mr. Shaffer beat Ms. Witt, but he isn’t on the ballot this year.  His brand, along with Ms. Benker’s and the entire Democratic Party has sunk at such a pace in the last year that even surprises me.

But back to the irony:  As I’ve written in many other places, Ms. Benker has a problem with transparency in regards to Colorado’s Sunshine Laws.  Well, you know what they say about birds of a feather (they tend to flock together, in case you didn’t know).  Mr. Shaffer was recently in the news over some of his own transparency problems.
Funny how when elected officials are term limited, they feel free to go hog wild and disregard laws and ethics.  Basically, an endorsement by Brandon Shaffer isn’t worth the newspaper it’s printed on.
Maybe Ms. Benker could have gotten an endorsement from State Representative John “Jack” Pommer.  Then again maybe not:

Oh well, nevermind, another term limited Democrat who can’t follow the law.  Are there any honest ones at all?

Why Karen Benker should lose

I’m sure the title “Why Karen Benker should lose” was instantly assumed to be some kind of political philosophy or opinionated piece, but that’s not really the intent.  This is all about the numbers.
Vote breakdown, by the numbers

First, a little history.  Karen Benker (pictured at left) was appointed (selected, not elected) to City Council in early 2005 due to a vacancy in the Ward 2 seat.  She ran for retention of that seat in November 2005 and won.  But the numbers are interesting:  She only got 2,355 votes (or 37.1% of the vote) and only beat Alex Sammoury by 278 votes.  In 2007 she ran for Mayor, and in Ward 2, her ward, she only got 2,942 votes and lost citywide to Roger Lange by 7%.  Some people chose to vote for someone who pulled out of the race (Doug Brown) instead of her.  Total votes over two elections in her home ward 5,297 – her reputation has only declined since that time.

For reference, her opponent Katie Witt (pictured at right) ran for Colorado State Senate in November 2008 and was clearly identified on the ballot as Republican.  Even in an admittedly terrible year for Republicans, she received 6,105 votes in Ward 2.  This was less than a year ago, Karen Benkers last race was 2 years ago.  The 6,105 people who voted for Katie Witt knew then and can assume now what her political affiliation is, and there’s little reason to believe they would change their vote for her in a larger statewide race now that she’s running for a municipal seat.  These people may have donated money, put up yard signs, and obviously marked their ballot for Katie Witt – I see no good reason why a large percentage of them wouldn’t do the same again this year.

The money, by the numbers

In any normal year, a city council candidate raising the kind of money Karen Benker raised in the first reporting period would be impressive.  That number was $6,885.37 in contributions and in-kind contributions spread over 69 people (70 counting her own $777.65 contribution).

But this isn’t a normal year.  Her opponent Katie Witt more than doubled Ms. Benkers fundraising by collecting a whopping $14,628.81 in contributions and in-kind contributions, which was by far the most raised by any of the ten candidates running for city council.  These contributions were made by 112 individuals (add to that those that had their spouses listed) and 7 organizations/companies, which are nothing more than groups of people pooling their resources together.

Of even greater importance is what’s left in their accounts for their campaigns to work with.  This shows the managerial and money management skills of the candidates.  After the first reporting period, Karen Benker had $1,879.59 of funds on hand.  Katie Witt had $7,187.77, which is more than the entire amount Karen Benker has raised to date ($6,885.37)!  In the election before the election – the money race – Katie Witt has doubled up on Karen Benker on contributions and tripled up on remaining funds on hand.  

Money doesn’t always equal votes come Election Day.  But the people who do contribute have a vested interest in their candidate, and are usually motivated to get the word out to have their investment pay off.  If the larger contribution amount was just due to a few big donors, that would be one thing.  But the vast majority of Katie Witt’s donors were small amounts, and the number of donors was at a rate of 1.6-to-1 of Karen Benkers.  

You’ll also notice on Karen Benker’s report a lot of the same names, or last names, spread around in the money and in-kind contribution sheets.  There is some creative math to keep some donors just barely under or at the contribution limit, with 94 cents here, 6 cents there.  Her report tells me that she just doesn’t have widespread, grass roots support – pretty much the same cast of characters you’d expect to see – and/or their family members.

Money has a way of creating momentum – everybody wants to back a winner and jump on the bandwagon.  Who wants to throw away good money after bad, or after a losing effort?  Money also has a way of compounding momentum with the ability to send out more mailers, more phone calls, more advertising and signs – and more volunteers who want to get in on the action.  This is politics at its best as these people are not likely to go away after the election and a fair percentage will remain engaged.  

Unless there’s cheating involved.  I’ll cover this and the amount of ballots that were mailed out in an upcoming piece.
(UPDATE) The 10/20/09 reports are out and the financial trends continue to go well for Ms. Witt, and poorly for Ms. Benker.  In a week, Ms. Benker raised $695 – $250 of which was from the Fraternal Order of Police, and the rest divided up amongst 6 individual donors.  Ms. Witt raised $1,107 – $80 were from 2 companies, the remaining $1,027 from 19 individual donors.  Total donors are roughly 76 for Benker, 138 for Witt, which improves the ratio to 1.8-1 for Witt.

Of greater importance was the available funds on hand for the last two weeks of the campaign.  Ms. Benker had $484 left.  Ms. Witt had $5,837 left.  Where before Ms. Witt had a 3-1 advantage in funds on hand, it is now 12-1.  If you get any mailers or robocalls from Ms. Benker, be suspicious.  These things cost money, usually more than $484.

Like I said in a Times-Call comment “No wonder Benker is lashing out in all directions, including wasting the Election Committee’s time and insulting citizens. She’s not quite the budgetary wizard she paints herself to be, as these numbers clearly show. It appears no one wants to give her any money, comparatively speaking. Why throw good money after bad? While contribution differences don’t always equal election results – who’s shoes would you rather be in right now?

Benker’s Freudian slip?


Very interesting.  This isn’t the first time, accidental or not, that Karen Benker has asked us to forget things we observe.  Remember her saying we should not pay attention to what we currently see at the Twin Peaks Mall.  It is a little tough to try to “forget” her “results” because she’s constantly boasting about, and inflating, them.

“Continue to bring the change”?  So this “change” thing is an ongoing operation from a 4+ year “old guard” bureaucrat like Ms. Benker?  Please.  Time to make a change alright, in the Ward 2 City Council seat.

Sometimes, true feelings (like what you see above) just accidentally come out.  It’s just easier to be yourself, but if she did that, this election would be a landslide…and not for her. 

Karen Benker tries to use Election Law to punish free speech

The freedom of speech and the freedom of the press are precious rights worth defending. That’s why we should all be alarmed with how Council woman Karen Benker is using Longmont’s campaign laws to intimidate people who express their opinions and report information critical of elected officials. Continue reading…

Fissinger lied about Benker’s anti-LifeBridge involvement

No one likes a liar.  I know, we almost expect it from politicians, but still.
Back on June 25, 2009 in a Times-Call op-ed, City Council at-large candidate Kaye Fissinger said this: No council member organized, directed or actively participated in this effort.” The effort she speaks of is the petition drive in 2007 to overturn the annexation of the LifeBridge/Union property east of Longmont.  The same one we’re mired in an endless amount of losing litigation over.  One of Longmont Advocate’s contributors, Nicolle Pratt, wrote an excellent piece about this worth reading to refresh your memory.
A photograph of Ms. Benker in What’s In It For Longmont‘s HQ was part of Ms. Pratt’s story, but was forcefully yanked down after one of her supporters demanded it be removed.  Well, the following email is proof enough of Ms. Benker’s more than idle involvement in that sordid affair that almost tore this community in half.  I wonder if this email was sent to the city’s server as mandated by state Open Records law.
Subject: Fwd: [prospectcommunity] Sign petition?
(UPDATE) Date: Tue Sept 11 2007 3:33 pm  (How nice, let’s all spend 9/11 trying to kick a church out of town)
Hi all,
If anyone is interested in signing the citizen petition to put the Union annexation to a vote of Longmont residents, I will be on my porch this Saturday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. with a petition.
Karen Benker
(UPDATE) Date: Wed Sept 12, 2007 9:31 pm

I forgot to include my address when I sent out the first email. Sorry about that.
This Saturday morning from 9:00 am to 10:00 at 1919 Andrew Alden Street you can sign the annexation petition to put the issue to a vote.
I have two lions (that look like collies) on my front porch.
So, here we have a sitting councilmember, Karen Benker, who lost this annexation vote 1-6, actively participating in this petition drive to undo the vote of a super-majority on council.  I’m not sure if there was any lawbreaking involved there, but it sure seems pretty unethical, and one heck of a conflict of interest.

And we also have a council candidate, Kaye Fissinger, who’s a regular agitator at the podium during council meetings, telling an outright lie in an op-ed in the Times-Call.  Ms. Fissinger was one of the main ringleaders of this anti-LifeBridge, anti-church, pro-hate operation and recent uncovered emails between these two people (along with that banned photograph) show they are partners in crime, so to speak.

It’s hysterical looking back at the comments by these two over the last couple of years about LIFT, and that people may be doing shady things behind the scenes to corrupt local politics and win elections.   


Lady’s and gentlemen – I bring you truly what is “Wrong with Longmont” (hence the site name).  They are the corruptocrats, they are the secret handshake committee out to get their political enemies, they skirt our laws and ethical standards.  They are everything they seek to rid the city of.  Come Election Day, get rid of them.

Voters should be Benker’s judge and jury

Voters in Longmont by now have received their mail-in ballots for city council candidates and various other races and issues.  But this year you should consider yourselves not just voters, but judge and jury.  We have a council member and candidate who has skirted Colorado’s Sunshine Laws for two decades and so far has gotten away with it.  This time around you, the voter, can deliver much needed justice.

The person in question is Council member Karen Benker.  Back in the ‘90’s an issue that was brought up repeatedly by the Rocky Mountain News through articles and editorials was charges she violated Open Meetings laws.  Her fellow RTD board members echoed this sentiment and a recall effort was attempted against her, although thrown out on a technicality due to jurisdiction.

As everyone should know by now, Ms. Benker is part of a council with a staggering amount of secret Executive Sessions, so much so that the Times-Call is suing this council over it.  And now it has been revealed that she has repeatedly, and intentionally in my opinion, disregarded the Open Records law when it comes to making her emails public.

The amount of evidence that I have provided to the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office is a thick pile of attachments, I’ll try to summarize:  I included relevant portions of the Colorado Public Records Law (C.R.S 24.72.201) and an administrative regulation from the City of Longmont.  Included within them the issue of confidentiality comes up.  This is the clause Ms. Benker is trying to use as her reasoning, or excuse, for not forwarding the emails in question.  It’s made pretty clear that the actual word “CONFIDENTIAL” must be in the subject line of the email and “just because a message is labeled “CONFIDENTIAL” does not mean that it will be exempt from disclosure” (from 2.07 of “Longmont’s Electronic Records, their retention and availability to the public” administrative regulation)

Further, in the April 29, 2008 Longmont City Council Study Session, Ms. Benker asked the City Attorney specifically about this, and he clearly said it was not up to the receiver, in this case a council member, to determine the confidentiality of a communication – it is up to the sender.  But these emails had to do with city business, not a personal note asking how the family was doing or anything along those lines.  This was about funding anomalies concerning Ms. Benkers dealings with H.O.P.E. and the emails alluded to “frustrations that Longmont developers have with Karen Benker” (from Ms. Benkers 8/5/09 Times-Call op-ed).  As you can see these are clearly not private or personal communications, they relate to public policy.

To prove this is not an election issue or some hatchet job, not only have I written about this for over 18 months, but the Times-Call did a series of stories and an editorial about it last June – before Ms. Benker even announced her candidacy.  Her latest violation occurred in late July 2009, after all of the public attention was paid to this issue.  In Ms. Benkers emails that were made public and in her op-ed she quoted directly from the emails in question, which would make the material within them public information and no longer confidential.  She had the option of redacting the names of the people who sent her those emails, but after more than 2 months she has still not forwarded these to the city’s server as mandated by law.  Instead she has insulted me, my website, and the other individual who dared question her activities (Greg Burt). 

To further make the case that this isn’t an election issue, I am requesting the DA’s office pursue this regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election.  Of course, it’s inevitable that it indeed will have to be considered during this election season because Ms. Benker has recently (allegedly) violated this state statute, and the coincidence of the time of the year.  Due to the DA’s Office time constraints (and they have not indicated they will even consider this case) they may not be able to get to it before Election Day.  This is after all just a misdemeanor, but punishable by a fine of not over $100 and/or imprisonment for not more than 90 days.  If that maximum penalty wasn’t written for repeat and intentional violators, why was it written at all?  And if this law won’t be enforced, why bother having it?

The DA’s office didn’t pursue the previous complaint against Ms. Benker (possible C.R.S. 24-18-109 violation), which doesn’t exactly mean she’s innocent of it, and I don’t know if they’ll pursue this either.  Regardless of that, thankfully the largest jury in the city – the voters of Longmont – can render their own judgment in this matter.

On Ms. Benker’s website she says “Longmont voters are smart, don’t be fooled!”  Not only has she tried to fool the citizens of Longmont, she’s tried to hide it by abusing Open Records and Open Meetings laws.

A vote for Karen Benker is a vote for continued dishonest government.  A vote is a terrible thing to waste.

Boulder County D.A. letter over Benker’s Open Records issues

Below you will see the correspondence I sent to the Boulder Assistant District Attorney in regards to the alleged Open Records violations of Longmont City Councilmember Karen Benker.  This was sent September 29, 2009.  Below this communication there are updates to the ongoing situation.  Even if the DA’s office wont pursue this, citizens and voters need to be aware of it.
To:  Boulder County Assistant District Attorney Christopher Zenisek
From:  Chris Rodriguez
Subject: Possible Colorado Open Records Act violation
Mr. Zenisek,
It was nice talking to you about this subject, thanks for your time and consideration of the following.  I believe Longmont City Council member Karen Benker has violated provisions of the Colorado Open Records Act (24-72-201) and I’ve provided below the basis of that opinion.  Below are several hyperlinks to documents for background information, which I will try to explain.
This is a Longmont policy/procedure document having to do with emails.  Highlighted on pg. 12-3 is the subject of confidentiality, this topic will become more important as you read the other documents.
This is a transcript of the April 29, 2008 Longmont City Council Study session, and the audio in mp3 format.  This is a discussion that Karen Benker initiated about emails and Open Records.  In this exchange between council members and their City Attorney, it’s pretty clear what is expected in the arena of emails.  Also, the City Attorney gives his interpretation of what is “confidential” and how it is established.  This discussion references an “administrative regulation” which I believe is the document above, but could possibly be a confidential communication between himself and council.
This is an April 30, 2008 story I wrote about the 4/29 meeting.  The point of this and subsequent stories submitted by the Times-Call and myself is to point out this is not a new issue, it’s been an ongoing and very public story.
Times-Call June 14, 2009Request for council members email’s rife with difficulties”.  This talks about council members being assigned city based email addresses, something that was long overdue.  The Times-Call did an Open Records request of emails, this was the result of that request.
Times-Call’s June 14, 2009Lot’s of room for error built in”.  In this, council members are quoted about this ongoing problem.  Karen Benker admits in this story that she had not been following the policy.  Check some of the quotes, keeping in mind she’s been on council for over 4 years, and was made quite aware of the policy and state statute in April 2008.
Times-Call’s June 14, 2009 editorialPublic business should be done using public e-mail accounts
June 15, 2009 story I wrote about continuing problem with emails
Email exchange between Karen Benker and Greg Burt.  This was over a month after the Times-Call articles/editorial on this subject.  At this point Ms. Benker did have a city based email address, as you can see in this exchange.  She alludes to an email or emails from constituents that must have been sent to her private email account as they do not reside on the city server.  You may also notice that in her initial reply to Mr. Burt she uses her private email address, not her city based email address
Karen Benker’s August 5, 2009 Open Forum letter to the Times-Call on this subject.  She again references an email from Mr. Burt that does not appear anywhere on the city’s server.
Brief outline of Colorado Open Records Act
Pertinent language of the Colorado Open Records Act

You may or may not be aware that the Times-Call is suing the City of Longmont over Open Meetings violations.  I only bring this up as Ms. Benker in her capacity as an RTD board member in the ‘90’s was also accused of violating Open Meetings law (the Rocky Mountain News wrote some stories and an editorial about this) and citizens tried to mount a recall effort against Ms. Benker to remove her from her RTD board position.  So this is not a new issue that someone in her capacity and experience can claim as ignorance of the law.  The supporting documentation I’ve provided, and there could be more, shows a timeline of how and when she was made aware of this law and her responsibilities – and then afterwards continued violation of the Colorado Open Records Act where it appears to be intentional.

On the “confidential” aspect:  I included relevant documents about this as I expect it to be the defense for her actions.  You’ll note in the first attachment and the transcription of the 4/29/08 City Council meeting that it is up to the “Sender” to claim confidentiality, not the “Receiver” to determine.  Further, it says the request for confidentiality shall be in the “salutation”.  The Longmont City Clerk told me this indicates the “Subject” area, not within the body of the email.

Also, the fact Ms. Benker included the subject of these emails within the email to Mr. Burt and the op-ed in the Times-Call would, to me, make something supposedly confidential quite public.  She could have redacted names from emails if she chose to, but as of this date (2 months after exposing the content of those emails) she still has not done this.

I appreciate your position that how your office operates is outside the timing of elections.  As you can see, I and the Times-Call have been writing about this issue for much longer than one election cycle and this all occurred prior to Ms. Benker even announcing her candidacy.  But it now has become an election issue due to the mere timing of her latest, in my opinion, violation.

Like I said, I have no problem dealing with this in the court of public opinion.  But something I repeat often is the concept of holding elected officials accountable.  If it appears an elected official has violated a state statute, what faith will citizens have that officials truly are being held accountable if no one’s willing to enforce the law?

And if a law is not going to be enforced, or only selectively, why bother even having it?
I know this is more philosophical, but when this gets out, and it will, people will be asking those questions.  And I can’t say I would blame them.

Chris Rodriguez

As previously mentioned, the above correspondence was sent September 29th.  As of October 5th there has been no response, but a misdemeanor like this is not likely high on their list of priorities, which I understand.  I did receive a call from the Clerk of the Court‘s office about the steps I can take (and what it would cost) to file a case in court over this issue. 
The day after I sent this to the ADA, the following letters ran in the Times-Call:
September 30, 2009 Longmont Times-Call Open Forum letter by Chris Rodriguez and rebuttal by Karen Benker.
To me this appears to be an open and shut case, regardless if the DA’s office decides to pursue it or not.  At the very least, with all the Times-Call stories and advice from her City Attorney, it shows complete incompetence and ignorance on Ms. Benkers part.
I’m sure this will only appear to some as a campaign season attack piece, but if you go through the timeline, you’ll see this is not a new issue for Ms. Benker, the Times-Call, or myself.  How any ardent Benker supporter can look the other way after reading all of the above articles and documents is a gargantuan leap of faith.  How any voter could consider returning her to her Ward 2 seat is equally appalling.
UPDATE:  It appears Ms. Benker has further violated the Open Records Act and is telling her fellow attack dogs to use “CONFIDENTIAL” in clearly non-confidential emails so as to conceal them.  She is also apparently having these people, most notably Kaye Fissinger, to look into organizations she doesn’t like and homeowner information on private citizens.  This also has been forwarded to the Boulder D.A.’s Office and they have added it to the previously large packet of information they have already received. 

Benker decries robo-calls, then engages in them

Yet another case of the pot calling the kettle black.  Longmont City Council member Karen Benker has filed a complaint with the Elections Committee about a robo-call that went out recently.

And yet, she just interrupted people’s Sunday with this robo-call herself.  I guess for someone who basically lead an anti-LifeBridge, anti-church, anti-religious movement, it’s your problem if you have better or more important things to do on Sunday:

Hi this is Karen Benker. For the past 4 years I have served as your city council member and I am seeking reelection this year. Over the past couple of weeks many of you have received phone calls and fliers in the mail that have lied about my work on council. During my tenure as councilwoman I have faithfully and honestly represented my district. I am asking you now, do not to believe these lies paid for by outside interest groups from Montana who are spending thousands of dollars slandering my name. I am a true advocate for you. Again this is Karen Benker, and I hope you will vote for me this week. If you have any questions about my votes on city council, about my position on an issue, or the work I have done on your behalf please call me at 303-774-7745 or go to my website This phone call was paid for by Benker for City Council, Dennis Etchells, Treasurer.
Faithfully and honestly“?  I don’t live in Ward 2 so I didn’t receive many of these mailers or calls, but they sound pretty spot on and not full of lies or slander.  Ms. Benker apparently, as the great Jack Nicholson once said, “can’t handle the truth“.  And she wants to make sure the truth is whitewashed as much as possible before Election Day.
I don’t think so.

Benker SPAMS Prospect

Seems Longmont City Councilmember Karen Benker sent out some SPAM emails to her neighbors in the Prospect neighborhood.  Here it is below (in black) with some additional made-up lines thrown in (in red) to make it more interesting.  Enjoy.


Hi everyone,
Yes, it’s that time of year again…football, falling leaves in Prospect, and elections.  (But Sunshine Law violations and misleading about “accomplishments” is a year round activity that keeps me quite busy)

Gotten any strange calls lately?  (UFO’s got you down?  People stalking around your home or place of business?)

As you know, I am (unfortunately) running for reelection to City Council and am facing a very negative campaign from folks that are (spreading the truth about me, and) refusing to file campaign expenditure reports and are hiding behind a Montana non-profit called Western Tradition Partnership (well, actually I’m not being totally truthful.  WTP has made contributions to Longmont Leadership Committee, who are filing campaign expenditure reports) Seems weird (like, totally weird) that out-of-state and out-of-city folks (darn city folk) are involved in a Longmont campaign.  (Sort of like how the Democratic Party has funded my campaigns in the past)

Please do not believe these lies and distortions of my record (as they are pretty much 100% true). If you want more info, go to my website ( or, better yet, please give me a call at 303.774.7745. (And don’t forget to ask me about Clover Basin, Secret Executive Sessions, and Open Records violations – three of my favorite subjects, along with pushing churches out of town, harrasing their members, and suing neighboring cities)

I ask you for your vote (but if you’re smart, you’ll mail it in after Election Day, or just vote for my opponent Katie Witt). Many thanks.

Hope to see you at the chili cook off.  (Don’t forget to try the Backyard Chicken and Prairie Dog Surprise recipes!)

Karen Benker