Montezuma municipal election shrouded in controversy
March 31, 2014
Montezuma municipal election
Residents of the town of Montezuma are questioning whether or not two municipal candidates and as many as 17 registered voters meet the residency requirements to run and vote in Tuesday’s election.
According to Colorado Revised Statutes 31-10-201, “Qualifications of municipal electors,” residency is defined as:
“The residence of a person is the principal or primary home or place of abode of a person.
Principal or primary home or place of abode is that home or place in which his habitation is fixed and to which a person, whenever he is absent, has the present intention of returning after a departure or absence therefrom, regardless of the duration of absence.
In determining what is a principal or primary place of abode of a person, the following circumstances relating to such person may be taken into account: business pursuits, employment, income sources, residence for income or other tax purposes, age, marital status, residence of parents, spouse, and children, if any, leaseholds, situs of personal and real property and motor vehicle registration.
A person shall not be considered to have lost his residence if he leaves his home and goes into another state or territory or another county or municipality of this state merely for temporary purposes with an intention of returning.”
C.R.S. 31-10-301, “Electors eligible to hold municipal office,” further requires candidates for municipal office to be 18 years of age at the time of the election, reside for at least 12 consecutive months in the municipality prior to the election and file a candidate petition featuring at least 10 signatures from local registered voters.
The town of Montezuma is preparing to host on Tuesday, April 1 an election that could shake up the short-term future of Summit County's smallest municipality.
Montezuma, defined as a statutory town under Colorado Revised Statutes, features a population of 65 residents, according to the 2010 census, and is governed by a board of trustees consisting of a mayor and six members. This year, all seven positions are open and 12 candidates have filed petitions for a chance to win a seat on the board.
"This is the biggest election in more than 25 years," said town clerk Helen Moorman, who is running her first election. "I've heard of similar-sized elections taking place in the past, but this is the biggest since my husband and I moved here in 1989."
The Montezuma election features a contested race for mayor between two past board of trustees members, Lesley Davis and Mike Moorman. Mike Moorman is Helen Moorman's husband. The seat was deemed vacant after longtime Mayor Steve Hornback recently announced his retirement.
“There’s about 35 of us (permanent residents) we see every day. We know each other’s cars, we know each other’s children and we also know there are people who own second homes in town. We understand they’re invested in the town and we want them to participate, we just don’t think they should vote, especially if it’s illegal or it compromises the election.”
Among the 10 candidates vying for six open seats on the board are incumbents Mary Tuttle and John Carney. They are joined by Mary Skowron, Molly Hood, DJ Keller, Michelle Farrell, Levi Corrigan, Corky Grimm, Jake Still and Jay Davis.
Moorman said there are 61 registered voters for the upcoming election, which is interesting given Montezuma has a population of about 65. With 12 candidates in the race that means roughly 20 percent of the town's population has decided to run for public office.
However, local residents allege as many as 17 of those registered voters, including two candidates, are second-home owners, do not live in Montezuma permanently and therefore can't participate in Tuesday's election legally.
Although she would not comment about where the suspected out-of-town candidates actually live, she did confirm there are second-home owners vying for a seat on Montezuma's board of trustees.
"Some people do own more than one residence," Helen Moorman said. "Primary homeowner residences vary around the state."
The Summit Daily News has since learned the candidates suspected of being second-home owners are incumbent John Carney and Corky Grimm, owner of Green Mountain Sports in Lakewood.
A Summit County Assessor's Office property search shows Carney as a secondary homeowner in the town of Montezuma. The primary homeowner is Catherine Van Heuven, a partner at a Denver law firm. A Denver address is listed as the primary mailing address, according to assessor's office records.
Corky Grimm, legally Clark Grimm, also is a secondary homeowner in Montezuma. The primary homeowner is Julie Grimm. A Golden address is listed as the primary mailing address, according to assessor's office records.
But Carney argued having a Denver address listed as his primary mailing address in the Summit County Assessor's Office database doesn't prove or disprove a candidate's permanent domicile. He further said he is a permanent resident of Montezuma, was appointed by the previous mayor and has served as a trustee for six years, and already has had his residency challenged and upheld on at least one prior occasion.
Calls to Grimm's Montezuma residence were not answered by press time.
Although Carney is confident his residency is genuine, there are still questions about some of Montezuma's registered voters. Colorado Revised Statutes permits a candidate or an election judge, at a candidate's request, to challenge a voter's residency at the polls.
"We're looking in-depth at the challenge process in anticipation of the challenges that will likely be raised," Moorman said. "Anyone who doesn't think the (residency) laws are fair needs to take a look at them and figure out how they can be changed."
Win, lose or draw, Davis is hopeful those who may be trying to upset the balance of a small Colorado town decide to do the right thing come Tuesday.
"There's about 35 of us (permanent residents) we see every day," Davis said. "We know each other's cars, we know each other's children and we also know there are people who own second homes in town.
"We understand they're invested in the town and we want them to participate, we just don't think they should vote, especially if it's illegal or it compromises the election."