Elizabeth charities to get recall paybacks

Mayor, trustee will donate payments to organization, food banks in town

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Elizabeth food banks and the Elizabeth Firefighters Community Organization will be the recipients of $3,244 in donations, courtesy of Mayor Megan Vasquez and Trustee Tammy Payne.

The money comes from reimbursements the two will receive after a recall election in December resulted in Vasquez and Payne remaining in their positions.

By law, Vasquez and Payne received reimbursement from the Town of Elizabeth for the expenses they incurred as a result of the failed recall effort.

The recall was fueled by residents angered over the town’s proposed comprehensive plan and over fears of future growth in the town.

A group called “We are Not Parker” led the recall effort, with some residents living in areas surrounding Elizabeth expressing fear that the town was planning to annex outlying land, despite the town’s assertions that the fears were misplaced.

The recall election took place Dec. 17, despite the fact that the town government was guaranteed to have major turnover in any case, with five of the six trustees terming out the following April.

Now Vasquez and Payne remain in office through April 2022. The December election cost the town more than $10,000 in election costs, attorney fees and staff pay.

“The recall was a very contentious thing going on in our community,” said Vasquez. “There was a lot of negativity, and now, with the COVID crisis, I thought it would be a good chance to take that negativity and turn it into a positive.”

Vasquez and Payne requested the reimbursements from the board of trustees, then recused themselves from the meeting in which the board approved the payments.

Colorado Revised Statute 31-4-504.5 states: “If at any recall election the incumbent whose recall is sought is not recalled, or in the event of a protest, the hearing officer determines that the petitions are not sufficient based upon the conduct on the part of petition circulators, the municipality may repay the incumbent for money actually expended as expenses of such election when such expenses are authorized by this section.”

Expenses incurred by Vasquez and Payne were for marketing materials during the recall election, including banners, post cards and signs. Vasquez spent $2,080.32 and Payne spent $1,163.74.

“Honestly, I wasn’t planning on being reimbursed initially,” said Vasquez. “But after COVID hit I thought it would be a good way to give back to the community.”

Vasquez and Payne could have received their expense checks and made donations themselves, but they opted to get approval from the board of trustees at the May 26 meeting, where the board unanimously approved ordinance 20-04, which legally binds both of them to use their reimbursement as a donation.

“We needed to get approval from the board to divert the donations,” said Vasquez. “The town attorney drafted an agreement for reimbursing the funds, stating they are reimbursing me and that the money will go to the food banks and organizations. The town will write me a check and I am bound by law to write a check to each organization.”

Trustee Payne said she also hadn’t considered taking a reimbursement, but after being approached by Vasquez, and working with local food banks during the COVID crisis, she decided it would be a good way to help struggling community members.

“I have been working with the food banks, and I heard that about $1,100 in donations could bring in close to 1,000 pounds of goods that could go on the shelves here in our community,” said Payne. “It seemed to me like that was a positive thing that came out of a situation that had been really acrimonious for too many months.”

The funds will be available for donation 30 days after the ordinance is published and put into effect.

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