Petitoners, Cohen cite case for and against potential recall

May 31—A protest hearing Wednesday morning in the Broomfield City Council chambers brought into question the validity of the petition to recall City Councilmember Todd Cohen based on alleged violations of the law.

Cohen, one of two Ward 5 representatives, is in the second year of his current four-year term. The group petitioning for his recall have detailed their reasons on their website, They also are focusing on fellow Ward 5 representative Heidi Henkel, who is not facing a recall election because she is already on the ballot for reelection in November.

The group cites a number of reasons for the recall, including the alleged support of a homeless camp in Broomfield, the passing of gun legislation, the placement of industrialized water tanks and treatment of constituents. Cohen and Henkel both deny the accusations, and rebut them on their own website,

The hearing was to determine whether the recall will take place or if the protests to the recall, of which there were nine, are enough to halt the vote. Hearing officer Karen Goldman has until Monday to make her decision. Goldman explained that she would be reviewing the testimony given at the protest hearing and the protests themselves.

Goldman began the hearing by detailing the contents of the protests to the recall, which included protests alleging no significant information to support the recall, the recall being based on personal attacks, the petition to recall being misleading and that the petition made claims that were false and reckless and violated Colorado Revised Statute 1-13-109.

Much of the protest hearing focused on the alleged violation of CRS 1-13-109, which states that "No person shall knowingly make, publish, broadcast, or circulate ... any false statement designed to affect the vote on any issue submitted to the electors at any election or relating to any candidate for election to public office."

Cohen said in his protest to the recall petition that many of the statements made on the petition were false, particularly the statement that he and Henkel both supported the creation of a homeless camp in Broomfield 2,000 feet from a high school. Cohen claims that they never supported such a camp, and that the council instead chose to offer hotel vouchers to those experiencing homelessness in Broomfield. The petitioners still claim that regardless of the council's final decision that any support of such a camp was still grounds for recall.

Cohen and his supporters argue that the recall petition should not be deemed sufficient because of the alleged violation of CRS 1-13-109, but those in favor of the recall disagreed.

"Not only is it not applicable, it is believed to be unconstitutional," said Duane Webber, who represented those petitioning for the recall. "A petition to recall is not a vote, and it is not related to any candidate. Especially since the recall election has not been scheduled. Further, CRS 1-13-109 is a criminal allegation, and this is not the proper venue to address criminal allegations."

Cohen argued that, according to his interpretation of the law, CRS 1-13-109 should apply to the petitioners.

"I think you can apply the law in this case. A recall is an issue decided by election. It can only be put on the ballot by election and only electors can speak to it," he said.

Goldman indicated that she believes CRS 1-13-109 does not apply.

"What I find interesting is the fact that we are not running this election under Title 1. This election is being run under Title 31, and there is no such prohibition in that particular state statute," she said. "This particular statute does not apply in my opinion."

Title 1 is the state statute that deals with elections more broadly, while Title 31 deals with municipal government elections specifically.

If Goldman decides that the protests are not enough to stop the recall, Cohen will appear on the ballot in November.