Recall supporters turned in 2,168 additional signatures Wednesday in their second go-around to oust La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt.
“I think we got it. I feel confident,” said David Peters, one of three county residents leading the effort to recall Lachelt, a Democrat. “We have a little more than 300 over,” he said, initially estimating he had brought in about 2,400 signatures.
“It was awfully hard work; we had a short period of time to collect about 2,000 signatures. I’m glad we got it done.”
Organizers have set up a website, Save La Plata County.
On April 17, La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker determined 5,475 signatures of the 6,485 submitted in the first, 60-day collection period were verified as valid, more than 2,000 signatures short of the 7,505 required to force the recall forward.
From the first collection period, Parker invalidated 1,010 signatures. They were rejected for a number of reasons, including missing information, duplicate signatures and incorrect address information.
An unusual provision in Colorado law allows recall supporters an additional 15-day period to collect more signatures to correct deficiencies in signatures rejected by Parker from the first collection period.
Peters returned Wednesday with those additional signatures.
Now, Parker will have another 15 business days to verify the new signatures.
The valid signatures collected this time would be added to the existing haul of 5,475 valid signatures to determine if recall supporters met their 7,505 target to advance the recall effort.
Lachelt thanked her supporters for organizing to block the recall.
“Every minute was worth it. We were standing for clean air and water and fighting those who are trying to silence us,” she said Wednesday among supporters at Eno wine bar.
She said she will pursue all challenges open to her, including conducting her own verification and challenges of signatures after Parker completes her verification.
As part of the recall process, voters eligible to vote in the recall will have a 15-day challenge period in which they can file a written protest objecting to the petition or the process of gathering signatures with the Clerk and Recorder’s Office.
Parker then would have 30 days to hold a hearing or designate another person to hold a hearing and issue a ruling on the validity of the written protests. Parker said she would normally designate someone else to hold the hearing, as that provides a third-party check on her office’s decisions and work.
Lachelt said she may also challenge the recall in district court, objecting to the recall supporters getting a second window to collect signatures after they failed to obtain 7,505 valid signatures during the first 60-day collection period.
If the recall ever goes to a vote, Parker said a special recall election would cost the county $58,000. However, if the recall appears on the General Election ballot, it would eliminate the cost of a special election.
Peters, Ty Hawkins and Michael Cugnini 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 Western Leaders Network as a nonprofit, 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.”
Lachelt has formed her own campaign, Decline to Sign, to block the recall from moving forward.
Hawkins said volunteer circulators who beat the bushes were key to finding additional signatures.
“This was an all-volunteer effort,” he said. “None of the circulators got paid a dime. And we certainly didn’t get $50,000 donated to us from California,” he said.
An environmental group, Conservation Colorado, has provided generous funding to a campaign committee it formed to help Lachelt defeat the recall effort.
According to campaign-finance documents filed with Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, United Against the Recall, an issue committee solely funded by Conservation Colorado, has received $47,110 from Conservation Colorado in its effort to aid Lachelt and block the recall.
Recall supporters claim the money largely originates from California billionaire Tom Steyer, who finances environmental causes and politicians through NextGen America, a nonprofit organization he founded that supports progressive positions on climate change, immigration, health care and education.
NextGen Climate Action, an arm of NextGen America, made two donations to the Conservation Colorado Victory Fund, which donates to political candidates.
NextGen donated $200,000 to the Victory Fund on Aug. 30, 2016, and it donated $80,000 to the Victory Fund on Oct. 25, 2016 – both long before the recall effort against Lachelt was launched.
Jace Woodrum, Conservation Colorado communications director, has confirmed Steyer has made donations to Conservation Colorado in the past, but he has told The Durango Herald that Steyer has not contributed to the United Against the Recall committee.