Mayor Lionel Rivera won't be a part of Colorado Springs City Council much longer, and he won't take on the role of "strong mayor," either. But assuming this April 5 election leads to a May 17 runoff, he likely will remain in office until someone else is sworn in three weeks after that.
The mystery, until now, has been what Rivera is supposed to do between the two elections.
City Attorney Pat Kelly, citing multiple sections of the City Charter, concluded that after the new Council picks its president on April 19, Rivera no longer will be a member of Council. Rather, he will be "the official head of the City for the purpose of executing legal instruments, for all ceremonial purposes, and for governing by proclamation in time of emergency" and the "chief executive and chief administrative officer of the City."
Rivera will work with the Council president to set meeting agendas, and he'll sign any new ordinances or legal documents. But he won't have a vote on Council, won't have the right to hire or fire city employees, won't be able to veto ordinances, and will be prevented from decision-making for Colorado Springs Utilities.
He says he'll meet regularly with interim City Manager Steve Cox, who will serve during that period as the city's acting chief of staff (before returning to full-time fire chief with the new mayor's arrival). The two hope to help Councilors iron out any transition wrinkles.
Bruce is city's problem
In other news: On March 18, state Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer dismissed a campaign finance complaint against Douglas Bruce and his "Reform Team," saying it was up to the city to prosecute. "Because Colorado Springs is a home rule city with a municipal code that defines a process for local investigation and action upon such complaints, the ALJ lacks jurisdiction," the judge wrote.
That means two things. First, the city hasn't been handling campaign finance complaints properly. Second, Bruce and his four other at-large Council candidates may face penalties if tried and found guilty of violations, including being barred from office.
The city previously had forwarded all complaints alleging candidates' violations to the secretary of state. That office then handed them off to the Office of Administrative Courts.
The demand for change came as a result of a complaint filed by Colorado Ethics Watch director Luis Toro, alerted to the Reform Team's financial filing practices by the Independent. Toro, an attorney, concluded the filings were illegal and hoped city leaders would order the city attorney to investigate. Instead, they insisted that the state handle it.
The judge's swift refusal, says Toro, "pretty much puts an end to the practice of sending a letter to Denver."
Rivera and Kelly are looking at how the city will handle the Reform Team complaint and future complaints. City code states that campaign finance violations can be prosecuted through municipal court as misdemeanors. Conviction can require candidates to vacate office, but Kelly says in her experience, "no one has ever used that provision."
Time's running out ...
If you are an inactive, registered voter: You need to update your registration. Go to the City Clerk's office or use the form on p. 22. If you've had a change of address or name, update your information at a county election office (locations at elpasoco.com/elections.asp) before you vote. After updating, go to the city clerk's office at 30 S. Nevada Ave., #101.
If you are an active voter and don't receive your mail ballot by Friday (March 25): Visit the clerk's office or call 385-5901.
Ballots must be received in the clerk's office by 7 p.m., April 5. Mail yours or drop it off at one of these locations: Clerk's office; Colorado Springs Senior Center, 1514 N. Hancock Ave.; Fire Station #8, 3737 Airport Road; Fire Station #17, 3750 Tutt Blvd.; Fire Station #19, 2490 Research Pkwy.; Fire Station #20, 6755 Rangewood Drive; and Gold Hill Police Substation, 955 W. Moreno Ave. All locations are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday through April 4. On April 5, locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
If the envelopes don't fit: Frustrated voters have been saying they can't fit their mail ballot in the return envelope using the provided privacy sleeve. Young says ballots should fit snugly with patience and persistence. If not, rip one side of the secrecy sleeve to accommodate your ballot, or wrap your ballot in a folded piece of paper and place it in the envelope. If you're not concerned with privacy, you can just put your ballot in the envelope, sans sleeve.