Anonymous postings undermine civil debate over Fraser Rec District
February 15, 2009
To the Editor:
A recent editorial lamented community polarization and the lack of civility in the upcoming Feb. 17 Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District recall election. It is a point well taken ” if we have to disagree, we should do so agreeably.
Admittedly, it’s hard to be civil in the face of accusations of conflict of interest and breach of fiduciary duty. And, yes, the rhetoric on both sides has been heated and at times uncomfortable. But at heart are differences of opinions, beliefs and assumptions among people who are willing to speak out publicly.
Recently, however, the election took a very troublesome turn. An anonymous mailing and Web site surfaced which contain numerous factual errors and endorsed specific candidates. It is troublesome because no one is willing to put their names on these claims. This form of advocacy is also illegal.
Colorado’s campaign finance laws require public registration and disclosures for any group that collects or spends $20 or more on an election issue. The law is designed to ensure the public knows who is behind political advocacy.
Friends Advocating Valley Recreation (FAVR) is registered with the Secretary of State. You can go to the campaign finance section of http://www.sos.state.co.us to find out who has contributed to FAVR and how we’ve spent our money. Concerned Citizens registered late and was fined, but Concerned Citizens’ information is now available for public review at the same site.
The key to voters being able to make an informed decision is to have information from a source they deem reliable. As FAVR’s principal officer, I, of course, think FAVR is the reliable source, but others may look to Concerned Citizens for their information. Hopefully, all sides in this recall election would agree that unattributed, anonymous assertions are, by definition, unreliable and outside the scope of permissible political conduct. I hope the endorsed candidates would also disavow this unfortunate and illegal tactic.
Complying with the law is a necessary step to more respectful elections.
J. Richard Devlin
Attorney and Registered Agent, FAVR
Editor’s note: This letter somehow circulated in the community before it was published in the newspaper. We received an e-mail from Viki Bale offering the following response: “I have yet to see the flier that has been going around. Mr. Devlin mentions a group that is circulating these and I assume he means the Concerned Citizens (of which there are none as of this date). There are a lot of other people in the Valley who are against the recall and have been doing things completely independent from Pat and myself. Most of them we do not endorse or approve of … Mr. Devlin is assuming that it is a group. If it’s an individual, no laws are broken. One person is not a committee and may say, do, or endorse anything they please.”