Fraser Rec: Concerned Citizens could be fined $10,000
December 22, 2008
A Fraser Valley group working to recall three Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District board members could be fined at least $10,000 for not registering on time and failing to report contributions and expenditures to the Grand County clerk and recorder.
Upon receiving an inquiry about the Concerned Citizens not appearing on the Colorado Secretary of State’s Web page, Grand County Clerk and Recorder Sara Rosene said she was prompted to investigate the financial nature of the group and its status as an issue committee.
State law defines an issue committee as being a group of two or more individuals involved in political activity.
Such a group has a “legal obligation to find out what the rules are,” said Rosene.
It’s estimated the group was established last August, according to how they identified themselves in a petition filed to recall three members of the Recreation District board of directors. The petition identifies Viki Bale as treasurer, Pat Rupert as a member and Mark Rudis as attorney for the “Concerned Citizens” collectively and individually, according to the letter from Rosene issued to the group on Friday, Dec. 19.
Checks were written out of a Concerned Citizens account to facilitate the recall, the letter states.
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“Any issue committee whose purpose is the recall of any elected official shall file a committee registration with the appropriate officer within ten business days of
receiving its first contribution,” state statute reads.
“We are not a group, first of all,” said Treasurer Bale on Monday. “We are just a couple of people concerned about these issues; we are not a formal group.”
Bale maintains the “Concerned Citizens” name came about merely as a way to identify individuals attending a July recreation district meeting.
“If they are not an issue committee they need to help us understand why they’re not,” Rosene said, adding that simply opening a bank account does not legally define such a group.
According to Bale, checks in her name had been written on behalf of Concerned Citizens for court filings. The account initially was opened last August, Bale said, with her own money to conduct legal research on the district bond and contract concerning the pending Fraser Valley recreation facility. The Citizens did not “solicit” funds, she said.
Concerned Citizens says they suspect people opposed to their mission instigated the clerk and recorder’s investigation.
For issue committees, the law outlines deadlines for reporting contributions and expenditures. Failure to register the committee and report finances can mean fines of $50 per day for every day the committee may have been negligent.
“They’re really in kind of a tight spot right now,” Rosene said. “They can write letters to the editor all they want, but when they start accepting people’s money and spend it on behalf of an issue ” and a recall is an issue ” it is their responsibility to register an issue committee with the county clerk and recorder.”
On Friday, the concerned citizens began registering as a committee, one that encompasses recall action, legal research and government watch-dogging, but no filings have been made in regard to contributions and expenditures.
“We have been careful to do everything by the book” Bale said. “Had we known this was our responsibility, we would have taken care of it right away.”
At its discretion, the county can waive or negotiate fees, the county clerk said, “but I believe if someone files a complaint with the secretary of state, there are other fees that could go beyond us.”
“We hope we can get all of this resolved as soon as possible,” Bale said.
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail email@example.com.