La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker on Tuesday said the petition a trio of residents filed in an effort to recall La Plata Commissioner Gwen Lachelt fell just more than 2,000 signatures short of the 7,505 required.
Parker said 5,475 signatures of the 6,485 submitted were verified as valid.
She found that 1,010 signatures were invalid. They were rejected for a number of reasons, including missing information, duplicate signatures and incorrect address information.
“We are looking at about a 15 percent rejection rate on this,” she said. “That is pretty normal for petitions. We did have 94 duplicate signatures.”
Recall organizers now have 15 days to collect the remaining 2,031 signatures needed to force a vote, Parker said.
Residents with the recall effort submitted their signed petitions on March 30. Even though they did not have the required 7,505, Parker had 15 business days to verify them.
After that verification, the organizers get another chance. An unusual provision in Colorado law allows recall supporters another 15-day period to collect more signatures and to try to correct any deficiencies.
Lachelt told The Durango Herald on Tuesday that she plans to challenge that interpretation of the law.
“They turned in an insufficient petition, and that should have ended the recall effort,” she said. “We will challenge this interpretation that the committee has the ability to cure a petition that was insufficient in the first place.”
Parker said Lachelt’s plan to challenge the recall effort is misguided.
“I am working with our attorneys and the Secretary of State’s Office, and that is not correct,” she said. “No other case law can support that. I have several attorneys looking at it ... and that is not the interpretation.”
County residents David Peters, Ty Hawkins and Michael Cugnini launched the recall effort in February because they said Lachelt’s environmental lobbying efforts harmed her attendance at county meetings. They also said she leveraged the duties of public office as a county commissioner to advance the interests of Western Leaders Network.
Lachelt, a Democrat, formed the nonprofit, bipartisan platform for local and state officials to connect on conservation issues.
She launched a “Decline to Sign” campaign in February in response to the recall effort.
“I am really grateful for all of the support I have received,” Lachelt said. “People have been generous with contributions, writing letters to the editor and putting signs up around the community.”
Cugnini declined to comment about the recall effort, and Peters and Hawkins did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Peters has said recall supporters would take advantage of the extra 15-day period to try to collect the needed 7,505 valid signatures.
Lachelt previously described the recall effort as “a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
A special recall election would cost the county about $58,000, but if the election is pushed to the General Election in November, it would eliminate that cost, Parker said.
Lachelt was first elected to a four-year term on the Board of County Commissioners in 2012, beating incumbent Kellie Hotter, a Republican, by a vote of 14,095 to 13,921.
She was re-elected in 2016 when she beat Republican challenger Lyle McKnight 15,337 to 14,680. Lachelt represents District 2, which encompasses central La Plata County, including Durango.
“I’m term-limited,” Lachelt said in a news release in February. “A special election ... is also a subversion of the democratic process.”