A mobile home park landlord illegally intimidated voters when he threatened to raise his tenants’ rent if Joe Biden wins the presidential election, the Colorado attorney general told the landlord in a cease-and-desist letter.
Edward (Bernie) Pagel gave notice to “homeowners/tenants” in Fort Morgan on Oct. 19, a letter sent to Pagel on Oct. 23 by Attorney General Phil Weiser said. Pagel’s notice partially read:
“Please understand IF Joe Biden is elected as our next President, everything you do and have to pay for will change completely. Everything will be increased. Like paying ALOT more in taxes, utilities, gasoline, new permits, fees and regulations...This also means YOUR RENT will be increased to cover these expenses. Most likely, rent would DOUBLE in price! IF the current President is re-elected, WE WILL NOT RAISE THE RENT FOR AT LEAST 2 YEARS.”
While Pagel stated in his notice that he wasn’t trying to tell tenants how to vote and that he was “just informing” them about what will happen based on the election results, the attorney general interpreted the notice as voter intimidation.
“The Colorado Department of Law has cause to believe that Edward Bernard (“Bernie”) Pagel has engaged in, or is currently engaging in, unlawful voter intimidation as defined in the Colorado Uniform Election Code of 1992,” the attorney general’s letter states.
The attorney general deemed Pagel’s notice “unlawful voter intimidation” because it coerced tenants “or their immediate family members” into voting a “certain way by indicating economic consequences based on the outcome of an election,” the letter states. Specifically, Pagel tried to get people to vote against Biden by indicating rent would increase if he won, according to the letter.
Pagel also engaged in voter intimidation “by promising that rent ‘will not increase for at least two years’ if the other candidate wins the election,” the letter said.
The attorney general asked Pagel to sign the letter to acknowledge that he received it and agrees to stop telling tenants how to vote, “take no action related to rents, fees or other charges ... associated with the results of the upcoming election” and “take no retaliatory action against any individual associated with complaints or perceived complaints related to” the notice he gave tenants.
The attorney general gave Pagel a due date of Oct. 30 to return the signed letter.
“Failure to submit the signed acknowledgment of this Cease and Desist Notice may result in legal action by the Department and/or other government agencies,” the letter states.
Pagel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.