Conservation Colorado continues to provide generous funding to a campaign committee it formed to help La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt defeat a recall effort, according to the latest financial reports filed with the state.
In addition, supporters of the recall issued their first campaign-finance report.
United Against the Recall, an issue committee solely funded by Conservation Colorado, donated $17,000 from March 19 to April 17, the latest time period covered by a campaign-finance report required by the Colorado Secretary of State. Conservation Colorado is a nonprofit that backs protecting wilderness and public lands.
The donations bring total contributions to the committee by Conservation Colorado to $47,110. The group formed the committee earlier this year to help Lachelt defeat the recall. It has $1,069.50 in cash on hand.
“We have continued to strongly support Gwen Lachelt because she is a champion for the environment and a leader who has worked hard on behalf of La Plata County citizens. We’re proud to stand up for policymakers who stand up for Colorado values,” said Jace Woodrum, communication director for Conservation Colorado, in an email.
United Against the Recall, he said, used its funds “to contact thousands of voters both in person and on social media.”
The biggest expenditure in the report was $8,000 to 4Degrees Inc., an advertising firm in Lakewood. The committee’s second-biggest expenditure was $5,000 to Grassroots Campaign Inc. of Boston for what was listed in the campaign-finance report as employee services.
By comparison, La Plata County Recall, the small-scale issue committee formed by David Peters, Ty Hawkins and Michael Cugnini, three county residents who seek Lachelt’s recall, reported $6,333.42 in donations from Jan. 30 to April 18. The group reports $3,862 in expenditures in the same time period. It has $506 in cash on hand.
As a small-scale issue committee, La Plata County Recall had to file a report only after it received $5,000 in donations.
La Plata County Recall’s largest recorded expenditure was $3,609.50 to Brownstein Hyatt of Denver for consulting and professional services. Its second-largest expenditure, $2,559, went to Four Corners Broadcasting of Durango.
The committee’s largest contributor is listed as Peters with $1,040 in total monetary donations and $4,649.50 in non-monetary contributions. The next largest donors are Duane Cugnini and Tonya McKnight. Each donated $1,000.
Lachelt’s own issue committee, La Plata County for Gwen Lachelt, lists $7,170 in donations and $2,190 in expenditures for the reporting period March 13 to April 11. It has $7,092 in cash on hand. Her biggest expense was $1,640.51 to Creative Geckos LLC for printing of signs. She records that she spent $350 in legal fees during that reporting period.
The largest contribution to Lachelt’s committee is $2,500 from John Powers, who is listed as a self-employed rancher who lives in Rifle.
The three county residents launched the recall effort saying that Lachelt’s work on environmental lobbying harmed her attendance at county meetings. They also said she leveraged the duties of public office as a county commissioner to advance her interests and the interests of Western Leaders Network.
Lachelt, a Democrat, formed the nonprofit Western Leaders Network, as a bipartisan platform for local and state officials to connect on conservation issues.
In a news release issued when the recall effort was first launched in February, Lachelt said: “I have been elected twice – first in 2012 and most recently in 2016. I’m term-limited. A special election is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, it is also a subversion of the democratic process.”
She launched a “Decline to Sign” campaign in February in response to the recall effort.
On March 30, Peters and Hawkins turned in 6,400 signatures in an effort to recall Lachelt – 1,105 shy of the 7,505 needed to force a vote – but they vowed then to take advantage of an additional 15-day collection period to cover their shortfall.
On April 17, La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker invalidated 1,010 signatures for various reasons, including missing information, duplicate signatures and incorrect address information.
Recall organizers now have until May 2 to collect the remaining 2,031 signatures needed to force a recall vote forward.
Lachelt has raised issues with the legality of the second collection period.
In a text message to The Durango Herald on Tuesday, Lachelt said “My attorneys are exploring all legal options. We will keep the Herald posted of our next move.”
Earlier this month she told the Herald, “They turned in an insufficient petition, and that should have ended the recall effort. We will challenge this interpretation that the committee has the ability to cure a petition that was insufficient in the first place.”
However, Parker said she is working with attorneys with the Secretary of State’s Office to follow correct recall procedure, and she told the Herald the process is supported in case law.
When he turned in petitions on March 30, Peters said recall supporters would be back out collecting more signatures during this final 15-day window that ends May 2 to successfully move the recall effort forward.
“There’s plenty of enthusiasm out there,” Peters said of the ability to collect additional signatures.