Aurora City Council rules avoids running election after county clerk commotion

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AURORA | Following a candidate endorsement from Arapahoe County Clerk Joan Lopez last month, Aurora city lawmakers are struggling to find consensus on how to address the upcoming municipal election.

Some council members have expressed concern that Lopez, who on a Facebook post endorsed Ward IV candidate Juan Marcano, may have access to some information that could compromise an unfavored candidate. Resolving that concern, however, has proved itself complicated.

This week council members heard three possible options from the Aurora Election Commission for the upcoming municipal election, which is run by the counties: continue elections as they’ve occurred, hire an outside entity, or add provisions into the intergovernmental agreements to ensure accountability. 

Ultimately, council members agreed to continue looking at ways to bolster an agreement with the counties over the election. Staff and the commission had no recommendations for the agreement, but agreed to discuss it further. 

Karen Goldman, who contracts with the city on election issues, told the council the commission couldn’t come up with any practical language that would ensure greater integrity from the county clerk.

Lopez told the Sentinel she hasn’t had an in-depth discussion with anybody from the city of Aurora about an agreement, so it’s unclear what that may look like. She said she would “never use (her) position as clerk and recorder to influence an election,” but added that “if city council needs that assurance in the form of an IGA (intergovernmental agreement) to feel more comfortable, we’re definitely open to discussion.

Aurora has never run its own election, but council member Charlie Richardson, who is vying to return to his Ward IV seat, suggested the move after seeing Lopez’s endorsement. That change would require the city to rent equipment. The cost is unclear.

“The idea of doing an election…that just gives me the willies,” Mayor Bob LeGare told the council.

Some council members resolve that the endorsement isn’t any different than former Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane making donations to the Republican Party. He told the Sentinel those donations were made because they were a requirement for attending annual Lincoln Day dinners.

Council members said they are confident in the election process and that all state laws would be met under Lopez. Election Commission Carolyn Boller said she had complete confidence in the election process, as she’s been involved with vote tabulation for more than two decades.

But Richardson and Gruber voiced concerns about turnout data that could be given to a favored candidate.

That suspicion is more difficult to settle.

A monitor, hired by the city, didn’t garner much support from the city council members. They acknowledged it wouldn’t be reasonable to have a monitor follow the county clerk around the clock. It was also unclear how much that may cost the city.

Aurora has never run its own election, it’s been divided among the counties the city encompasses — Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas. Goldman said she reached out to Douglas County to see if it would consider running all of Aurora’s municipal election, but was told the county couldn’t for several reasons, including a lack of staff and the resources it would take. Douglas County would have to nearly double its resources to do so, Goldman said.

The city typically approves agreements with the counties in August. The election commission is expected to take up the agreement at its meeting next week.