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Ruckus over recall timing

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Issues have erupted surrounding whether a recall of District 4 City Councilor Helen Collins can make the April 7 election ballot or whether a costly special election is required.

City Council was to vote on sending the question to the April ballot on Tuesday afternoon, after the Independent's press deadline. Late Monday, Councilor Jan Martin wasn't willing to speculate on what might happen. "I do believe this has to go to the ballot sooner or later," she said. "The question is when."

At issue is the City Charter and city code recall requirements. Douglas Bruce, an anti-tax activist who supports Collins, says certain procedures, including a 40-day protest period, an administrative hearing and the option of a District Court appeal, make it impossible to place the recall on the April ballot. "You can't take away the rights of citizens [to protest]," he says.

But Assistant City Attorney Britt Haley told Council on Monday that the City Charter requires Council to set an election not less than 30 or more than 60 days after a finding of sufficiency, which occurred on Jan. 14, unless a regular city election is scheduled within 90 days. In this case, Council could refer the question to the April 7 election, she said. But she added, "If a protest occurs, we'll have to have the chips fall as they may. There may be a court order that we have to follow."

District 4 resident Robert Blancken submitted a letter to the city Tuesday morning saying he plans to file a protest.

The recall effort is headed by former Harrison School District 2 board member Deborah Hendrix, who submitted 3,007 signatures on Jan. 8. It was on the 14th that City Clerk Sarah Johnson found they contained the required 1,485 signatures.

Out-of-state petition circulators were paid by Colorado Springs Government Watch, a nonprofit headed by Dede Laugesen, wife of Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen. Neither she nor Hendrix responded to requests for comment about the timing of the election by the Indy's press deadline. A city clerk's spokesman said a special election in one city district would cost $200,000 to $300,000.

If the recall is delayed until November, the city would pay its share of the coordinated election, a cost that ranges from $172,000 to $281,000, according to the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office, which will handles that election.

A fiscal conservative, Collins opposes stormwater fees and using city money to build a downtown stadium.

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