PUEBLO— The City of Pueblo informed petitioners seeking to amend the City Charter for a return to a City Council—City Manager form of government, that the signatures gathered were insufficient to move forward for a special election ballot measure.
The initiated charter amendment petition pertaining to “Change Form of Government to City Council—City Manager” does not meet the requirements of state law as specified by state statute. A petition for the charter amendment to be voted on with a special election requires 10 percent of city’s registered electors at the time petition representatives’ statement of intent was filed, which equaled 7,260 on December 1, 2022.
Mayor of Pueblo Nick Gradisar discovered the City of Pueblo had incorrectly followed past precedent of an initiated petition in Article 18 of the City Charter for amending a city ordinance rather than following the standards of state law for amending the City Charter. Because of the very real risk of a post-election challenge that the measure, if passed, is invalid because it never actually qualified for the ballot, this earlier error is being corrected by today’s decision by the Clerk.
Based on advice relating to earlier initiatives, the City Clerk was told that 3,678 valid signatures were needed for a charter amendment petition to qualify for a special election. The Clerk is obligated to comply with applicable law as are the proponents of any initiative petition. Here, Petitioners did not meet the statutory and legal requirements for submitting a charter change to the electors of the City of Pueblo.
Petitioners and all members of the public seeking charter amendments or changes to city ordinances are informed that the City Clerk does not provide legal advice and are told to retain their own independent legal counsel or other experienced consultant to ensure that they comply with pertinent laws. Therefore, the advice given here was for the Clerk rather than for initiative proponents or the public.
The petitioners submitted 3,830 signatures to be verified by the City Clerk’s Office on March 1, 2023. On March 14, 2023, the City Clerk’s Office issued a Certificate of Insufficiency to petitioners for the charter amendment regarding the change of government to a City Council—City Manager form. Only 2,814 signatures were verified by the City Clerk’s Office.
The petitioners took an additional 15 calendar days to attempt to cure disqualified signatures and gather additional signatures to meet the legal requirement for charter amendments to be voted upon in a special election. This supplement to the original petition was filed with the Clerk on March 29, 2023.
On March 29, 2023, the total number of signatures submitted per affidavit of circulator was 4,879 and the total number of signatures submitted per City Clerk’s Office was 4,877. A total of 4,877 signatures were reviewed by the City Clerk’s Office upon submission.
The total number of signatures verified as registered electors was 2,740; this number is less than the original number of signatures verified after the March 1 submission as a petition section initially approved was found to have been improperly disassembled. Additionally, all petition sections in the second round were disqualified as petitioners did not submit enough signatures to initiate a cure process in the March 1st submission according to the state statutes. The total number of signatures unverifiable equaled 2,320, leaving petitioners short 4,520 signatures necessary to trigger a special election.
The second-round petition signatures were still reviewed individually by the Clerk’s Office, which found that even if they had not been entirely disqualified, petitioners only would have added 870 signatures, which would have given them 3,610 signatures (2,740 signatures from originally filed petitions + 870 signatures from the most recently filed petitions), which is 68 signatures short of the original instruction to the Clerk and 3,550 signatures short of the requirements of state law.
In addition to the insufficiency of overall signatures, four petition sections were disassembled, separating the circulator affidavits from signatures pages. Petitioners had attempted to cure these petitions with a handwritten affidavit, but upon examination, this was found to be insufficient to cure the petition sections as they were no longer to the approved form and disassembly had still occurred. 270 signatures were contained within those four sections and were therefore disqualified.
Upon recognition of insufficiency no further action is required of the City of Pueblo or the petition gathers for the initiated charter amendment petition pertaining to “Change Form of Government to City Council—City Manager.”