The attempted recall of City Councilor Helen Collins from her District 4 seat has become a circus of errors and political intrigue.
First, there was the still-unsolved mystery about where money came from to pay out-of-state petition circulators. Then, early last week, an anonymous tipster delivered the Independent documents showing that Collins and anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce engaged in a land deal that neither will explain. Then, later in the week, an ex-con emerged as Collins' only potential replacement on the ballot — only to be disqualified because he's still on parole.
Now, according to the City Charter, if Collins is recalled, City Council will choose her successor. It's not clear whether Collins herself could be reappointed. But Deborah Hendrix, who sought the District 4 seat in 2013 and spearheaded the recall petition drive, says via email that she will vigorously campaign to oust Collins because "it is the right thing to do."
Colorado Springs Government Watch, a nonprofit run by Dede Laugesen, paid $14,122 to the recall-petition signature-gatherers, many of whom came from other states.
The Feb. 2 filing by Citizens for Integrity in City Council District 4, the group run by Hendrix, shows that between Dec. 28 and Jan. 11, it received $14,122 from Colorado Springs Government Watch. But Government Watch hadn't filed a report as of the Indy's press time, despite City Clerk Sarah Johnson telling the Indy in a Feb. 10 email, "I have notified the Colorado Springs Government Watch that my initial review indicates that they appear to qualify as an issue committee which must file disclosure statements pursuant to City Code § 5.2.203C."
That provision requires a report be filed if a committee accepts contributions of $200 or more, or spends $200 or more during the election cycle.
In an email, Laugesen says her group became interested in the recall because Collins demonstrated an "unwillingness to cooperate fully or credibly with our public-records requests or follow-up questions" about her relationship with Bruce, who authored the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights and opposes new taxes. Her group, she says, is concerned about Bruce's influence on Collins.
Asked about the city clerk's notification of a need to file reports, Laugesen says, "We of course will report the information her office requests."
Hendrix admits her group didn't recruit a candidate to run against Collins, so it was by happenstance that Myron Pierce, 31, filed for office last week. He runs a vehicle detailing service and serves as pastor at Passion City Church. Pierce, who moved here from Nebraska in January 2013, says he served more than seven years of a 16-to-33-year sentence for two robberies. In prison he got his GED and started a college degree, which he has since finished.
But while felons can seek and hold city offices, those still on parole don't qualify to be registered voters, which is required of candidates for city office. He withdrew Friday.
As a basis for the recall, Hendrix decried Collins' associations with a convicted felon "who served time for tax evasion." Presumably, that's a reference to Bruce (who's appealing his conviction). Collins and Bruce have been allies politically; both ran as part of a slate for Council in 2011.
The Indy obtained public records that confirm a business relationship between the two. Acting on an anonymous tip from someone who suggested a land deal has triggered a pending city Independent Ethics Commission investigation (about which the city won't comment), the Indy found that on Dec. 4, 2014, Bruce transferred ownership of a condominium at 1240 Samuel Point to Collins for "ten dollars and other good and valuable consideration."
The next day, Collins sold the property to a third party, Bonnie Langston, for $140,000.
Neither Collins nor Bruce will explain the transaction.
"It sounds like to me that somebody is still trying to get to me through the recall thing. I'm getting so tired of this anonymous crap that's going on," Collins says. "I really don't have any comment on it."
Asked what she did with the $140,000, she says, "I don't have any money."
Bruce says, "Frankly, I don't want to magnify the sniping of those people who were trying to manufacture something that will affect the recall election. Helen did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong."
Hendrix denied any involvement in tipping the media, saying, "It didn't come from me or from any conversations with anybody."
It's not certain that the recall will happen in the April 7 city election. City rules allow for a period to protest the petitions, and a citizen, Robert Blancken, has said he'll file a protest, though none was filed by press time.