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Local government

Residents launch effort to recall three councilmembers in Castle Rock

Petitions targeting Mayor Donahue, Heath, Valentine are certified for circulation

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Residents seeking to have Castle Rock's mayor and two other councilmembers removed from office have taken an initial step toward their goal.

The Castle Rock town clerk recently certified three petitions for circulation. The petitions seek to recall Mayor Paul Donahue, who is the councilmember in District 1; District 2 Councilmember Mark Heath; and District 5 Councilmember Renee Valentine.

Three petitioners — Suzanne Hackett, Malia Reeves and John Buckley — submitted the petition for District 1, which includes parts of The Meadows. The petition to recall Donahue claims his leadership style and voting record have been detrimental to the health of the community.

The petition reads, "in council, he has led an agenda to suppress voices of those with whom he disagrees yet took an oath to represent."

Specific incidents cited in the petition allege Donahue has dramatically reduced allotted time for public comment; denied residents the opportunity to speak; and shown deference to out-of-town developers and "citizens who support his personal and political interests."

The petition reads, "his voting record includes supporting a rate of development that arguably exceeds infrastructure and environmental sustainability, voting for a reduction in public comment during town council meetings, and rejecting grant monies that would benefit Castle Rock senior citizens and families in crisis."

Donahue said those claims misrepresent his eight-year voting record on council.

"Never once did we restrict what a person can say, just when they can say it," Donahue said, referring to when council decided to spread out the public comment period during council meetings. Last year, council changed public comment to three minutes per person and a maximum of 30 minutes total at the beginning of meetings, with remaining public comments allowed at the end of the meetings, also subject to a three-minute cap. 

Donahue was first elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. His term will expire in November, as he is term-limited.

"What a recall would do at best for the petitioners is move me out of office two or three months earlier than normal," Donahue said. "And it will cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars for this to happen."

Donahue said the claims seem punitive.

State law gives the petitioners 60 days to collect the required number of signatures — 25 percent of the number of votes cast within the district the last time a councilmember from that district was elected. In this case, that is 147 signatures.

The signatures must be returned to the town clerk for verification. If the required number of signatures are verified — and after expiration of any protest or legal challenge — the next step could be a special election, depending on time factors relating to already scheduled elections, such as November's general election.

If a recall election were to occur, it would give voters the option to retain or recall Donahue. That election would not include a candidate to replace Donahue as a councilmember, if recalled. Instead, according to the town charter, the replacement would be appointed by council.

Donahue would continue to serve in office while the process takes place. Also, the position of mayor is selected by the council, which would happen separate of any action by council to replace Donahue.

Valentine in spotlight

Three petitioners — Jammie Linn, Amy Fienen and Sid Brooks — submitted the petition to recall Valentine from District 5, which includes Castle Oaks, Cobblestone Ranch, Escavera and Founders Village.

"I don't know these people; they've never reached out to me with any concerns," Valentine said.

Valentine was first elected to office in 2011. Her second term is set to expire in 2018.

Petition filers believe they would be better served by a new councilmember who "supports responsible development, reduces debt by ensuring that spending does not exceed town revenues and provides the public with reasonable opportunity to address town council."

Three specific claims were outlined in the petition against Valentine. The first is that she has approved budgets in the past three years where expenditures exceed revenues by more than $90 million.

"In reference to the budget, there is not a deficit," Valentine said. "What they're talking about is a difference. The $9.5 million Meadows extenson project was approved by residents in 2005 and we have been saving since 2009." 

The second claim is that she refuses to support Citizens Petition 2016B, which gives citizens the right to vote on annexations of five or more acres. This petition was signed into circulation Feb. 4. Valentine said this will be an agenda item discussed by town council in April.

The third claim is similar to one against Donahue, that Valentine voted to limit public input at town council meetings to three minutes per person.

"To move forward with town businesses, we restructured comments," Valentine said. "We're not taking away from people. Sometimes, meetings were going until 11 p.m. and we wanted to make sure residents waiting to speak on their agenda item were heard in a timely manner."

In the case of the petition to recall Valentine, 268 signatures must be collected, which is 25 percent of the number of votes cast within her district the last time she was elected.

As with Donahue, if the required signatures are collected and verified, the next step could be a special election giving voters the option to retain or recall Valentine, who would continue to serve amid the process. If she were to be recalled, a replacement would be appointed by council.

Heath subject of petitions

Three residents — Thomas Curtis, Shawn Levan and Jeff VanderWal — were approved to circulate petitions to recall Heath from District 2, which includes Metzler Ranch, Diamond Ridge and Sapphire Pointe. Claims made in the petition were the same as those made against Valentine.

Petitioners need to collect 162 signatures in 60 days to move forward.

Heath was first elected in 2012 and would be up for re-election in November. He was not immediately available for comment.

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