(This letter was originally addressed to Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Janice K. Vos Caudill.)
We are in receipt of your certified letter of Feb. 25 in which you reject our petition to increase tax and debt for the purpose of improving the Entrance to Aspen and other roads within Pitkin County, because the “proposed initiative is administrative rather than legislative in character as recently held by the Colorado Supreme Court in Vagneur v. City of Aspen (No. 09SC1022, Feb. 11, 2013).”
You further state that, “All future correspondence sent to the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Office regarding your initiative will be forwarded and dealt with in the Pitkin County Attorney Office.”
While you are certainly free to forward your official correspondence to whomever you please, no such action has any impact on state law, and state law is clear that the decision to accept or reject an initiative petition for circulation lies solely with your office. There is no other legally relevant source for clarification on this matter other than you.
The Title I Election Code is clear that laws pertaining to county petitions are governed by Colorado statute 30-11-103.5. This statute then advises us that we should, “follow as nearly as practicable the procedures for municipal initiatives,” as described in Title 31, Article 11, Municipal Elections.
In particular, Title 31, Article 11-106(1), Form of Petition Sections, informs us of the only legitimate basis for the rejection of the subject matter of a citizen initiated petition: “The clerk may reject a petition … on the grounds that the petition … does not propose municipal legislation pursuant to section 1 (9) of article V of the state constitution.”
While you have now rejected the current initiative on exactly those grounds, a review of the Colorado Supreme Court case you cited will reveal that the court was not considering either this petition or any tax question generally, and that the decision is therefore clearly not applicable. In addition, the Pitkin County Charter paragraph you reference does not address the subject of administrative versus legislative character.
Further, the statutory restriction on the acceptable grounds for rejection of a petition did not deter you from rejecting our prior petition, nearly identical in content and substance, because it contradicted the Pitkin County Charter Section 7.1.1 prohibition on initiatives addressing the “levy of taxes.”
We must request some clarification of the following questions.
• Do you now accept that the subject matter of the petition is allowable as determined by the district court decision (of July 13, 2012) as a tax and debt authorization, regardless of any language to the contrary in the Pitkin County Charter?
• Separate from the issue above, are you now rejecting the current petition on the grounds that the subject matter is administrative rather than legislative, irrespective of the relevance of the Colorado Supreme Court decision in Vagneur v. City of Aspen?