Thornton resident Karin Baker filed a lawsuit in District Court against the city of Thornton, council members and the city manager on March 8 aiming to reverse the vote that declared a vacancy for Ward 1.

That decision ultimately removed Jacque Phillips from the Ward 1 seat on the City Council. 

“There was no proof that Dr. Phillips has moved from her home in Thornton,” Baker said. 

She said her attorney is on hand but would not release his name. 

Todd Barnes, a spokesperson for the City of Thornton, relayed the city’s comment on the lawsuit. 

“We are in receipt of this lawsuit and will take the time and appropriate steps to review it thoroughly prior to determining our next steps,” he said. 

Baker said she lives in the same complex as Phillips.

“I see her just about every day,” she said. “There may have been two days out of the week that I did not see her.” 

She said that every day, she walks her dog in the morning and sees Phillips going to her car. 

The lawsuit claims that “…three of the councilmembers had substantial conflicts of interest that should have disqualified them from voting on the question about Ward Member Phillips.”

Thornton’s city council voted 5-4 on Feb. 8, declaring a vacancy on the dais due to former City Councilor Jacque Phillips’ purchase of a home in Alamosa and starting a second job there.

Phillips was under fire from some councilors for purchasing a house in Alamosa, where she works as executive director for the San Luis Valley’s Board of Cooperative Education Services, an Alamosa-based group of 14 southern Colorado school districts.

Where is home?

At the Feb. 8 meeting, city councilor Julia Marvin said that those voting to declare a vacancy are taking representation away from Ward 1 and that the decision should go back to voters by a recall if they have an issue.

Mayor Jan Kulmann thinks considering the intent of local representation is important. 

“Home is the question,” she said. 

The evidence that Kulmann said pushed her to vote for the vacancy was the notice of a full-time job for Phillips in Alamosa. 

She pointed to examples in Aurora and Parker, where she said that council members took jobs in different cities, bought homes in those cities and then resigned. She thinks it was unethical for Phillips to not resign. 

“I believe the combination of a full-time position more than four hours away as well as a document signed by an attorney to purchase a home as a primary residence has created a vacancy in Ward 1,” she said.

“I’m very sad for Ward 1. This is wrong, it was a political move with the only goal being to further entrench the majority on council,” said Phillips.

Mayor Pro Tem Jessica Sandgren said that she believes the charter outlines what the council is to do when there is a vacancy. Though, during the Feb. 1 planning session meeting, Geoff Wilson special counsel on the issue, said that isn’t true. 

“(The charter) doesn’t mandate that (council receives competent evidence)” he said. “It doesn’t say council shall hold a hearing but it says that the fact of a vacancy if you’re going to pursue that, shall be established by competent evidence.”

The process to fill the vacancy lasted 21 days and the council appointed Eric Garcia to the stand on March 8.