DACONO, Colo. — Dacono City Council abruptly adjourned Monday night before approving a measure to pay for ballots to be printed for a June 27 special election asking voters whether they want to recall two members of the City Council.
The meeting got tense near the end of the agenda as councilors approached agenda items related to the special election to recall councilmembers Jackie Thomas and Jim Turini. The city has to hire a special counsel for the election after the city attorney resigned earlier this month. Councilmembers were also asked to approve funding for the rental of election equipment and funding to print ballots.
At a meeting in February, Mayor Adam Morehead recognized Dacono City Manager A.J. Euckert for decades of service to the community. Later in that meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Wittman surprisingly motioned to immediately fire Euckert. Her motion was granted by a 4-to-2 vote.
After that meeting, a group of citizens collected signatures to recall Thomas and Turini, who voted to oust Euckert.
On Monday night, Turini and Thomas wanted to weigh in on issues related to the special election on the agenda. Councilmember Kevin Plain argued they weren’t allowed to vote on the issue because city charter prevents them from voting on an issue involving them.
“We shouldn’t be involved in any way of getting in the way of this,” Morehead said during the meeting. “The citizens called for this. We should make sure it happens correctly and legally.”
Turini motioned to table the hiring of an attorney for the special election until the city hires a new city attorney. The city’s previous legal counsel resigned effective April 15. Plain argued Turini couldn’t make the motion because he was involved in the election.
Wittman then motioned to delay hiring the council. Morehead accused her of stalling.
“It’s not stalling,” Wittman said. “It’s like, you know, you’re just trying to roughshod us so that we don’t shut up and sit up and do what you want us to do. It’s not going to happen.”
“You cannot exclude them if it has to do with the finances of the city,” she argued.
Over the next few minutes, several councilmembers began talking over one another. Morehead banged a gavel at the dais. Councilmember Danny Long made a motion to adjourn.
Thomas argued she had a right to vote.
“The recall election has been approved, but I am not guilty,” Thomas said. “The last time I checked I live in America, and I am innocent until proven guilty.”
During an especially tense moment, as Wittman argued there was a motion to adjourn on the table, Morehead banged the gavel again.
“You won’t silence me with your little hammer,” Wittman said.
Over the next few minutes, the mayor tried to call a vote on funding election equipment and printing ballots, but many of the councilmembers had already left the room.
The council failed to get to another agenda item to hire another special counsel to deal with a meeting relating to a Colorado Bureau of Investigation report that details evidence of violations of city rules by Wittman, Cross, Turini and Thomas.
The 181-page report, turned over to council April 12, details several instances where the councilmembers met each other outside of a public meeting, a violation of open meetings laws.
In one instance, newly appointed councilmember Doris Crespo told an investigator that Wittman invited her out to dinner in October. Crespo told an investigator Wittman told her to meet at a Mexican restaurant because she needed “some protection.”
Crespo told the investigator Wittman called her the next day to change the location of the meeting because there were “too many eyes and ears” at Casa Cortez, the restaurant where they had planned to meet.
When Wittman picked Crespo up, Crespo said she told her she had invited councilmember Jim Turini to the dinner. Crespo told the investigator she asked Wittman if that was allowed, because she believed open meetings law prohibited three or more councilmembers from meeting outside of a public meeting to discuss city business. Crespo said Wittman assured her it was four.
Crespo told the investigator the three discussed Euckert at the meeting.
“It was mostly that they wanted , that A.J. had to go,” Crespo said, according to an interview transcript. “I know for A.J. it was more about that he did whatever he wanted and he was making too much money.”
The investigative report also mentions video showing Wittman, Turini, Long and Thomas going door-to-door on March 4, encouraging citizens not to sign the petition for the recall of Thomas and Turini. A screenshot of that video appears to show all four councilmembers “conferring each other.”
Thomas and Turini both told the investigator they wanted to wait for legal representation before they were interviewed and weren’t interviewed as part of the investigation. Wittman and Long never responded to the investigators request for interviews, according to the report.
The former city attorney recommended the council hold a special hearing to discuss the investigation and determine whether councilmembers had broken city rules. On Monday night, the council was supposed to vote on whether to hire special legal representation for the city to run that meeting, as Dacono currently doesn’t have a city attorney. But the council adjourned before they could vote on that matter.
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