BOULDER -- Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett won't pursue further investigation of complaints that Boulder County commissioners have illegally been trying to intimidate voters to get them to support a property tax-supported subdivision roads paving district.
As many as a dozen rural residential subdivision residents have alleged -- in complaints filed with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office and reviewed by Garnett's office -- that the commissioners have committed that misdemeanor crime.
That intimidation, according to those complaints, came in county letters and brochures sent to more than 10,900 subdivision property owners about a proposed property tax that the county says would cover most of the costs of rehabilitating unincorporated Boulder County's deteriorating paved residential subdivision roads and would pay for the ongoing costs of keeping those roads in good shape.
On Wednesday, however, Garnett wrote the people who'd filed complaints that "after carefully reviewing the alleged facts and applicable law, my office has concluded that, for a variety of reasons governing prosecutorial discretion in Colorado, no criminal charges are appropriate in this matter."
Vincent Hirsch, who lives on 1023 Deer Trail Road and who -- along with his wife Linda -- was one of the people who'd filed the formal complaints -- said of Garnett's position: "I knew that was going to happen."
Another of the complainants -- Milton Marasch, of 144 Sentinel Rock Lane -- said he'd gotten an email from the Colorado Attorney General's Office that such issues are a matter of local governments' jurisdiction, and not the state's.
"We recommend continuing to work with the appropriate local agencies to resolve this matter," the attorney general's staff wrote Marasch on July 29.
Marasch, who said he's lived in the Boulder Heights subdivision for about 28 years, also sent a letter about the repaving controversy to Gov. John Hickenlooper's office, "although I haven't heard back from them."
Marasch said Thursday: "I'm not sure what to do next ... It looks like nobody in the state is looking out for the people in the state."
Garnett said Thursday that he and his staff had looked into the complainants' objection to the commissioners' position that if voters don't approve the proposed permanent subdivision paving public improvement district and the new property tax levy, the commissioners will go ahead and create a local improvement district.
A LID would last for only 15 years, but affected subdivision properties would be charged annual fees to cover road rehabilitation costs over that 15-year period.
The complainants said in materials submitted to the Secretary of State's Office in July that the Boulder County commissioners "are attempting to intimidate the voters" by stating that the LID would be formed if voters don't approve the PID taxing proposal.
Garmett said Thursday, however, that he and his staff had concluded that the commissioners' stated plans don't amount to "something the criminal justice system can help with" and shouldn't be prosecuted under the state's voter intimidation law.
He said the state law is intended to deal with "threats of force or other improper threats" that might "keep someone from actually exercising their right to vote."
Hirsch, who said he's lived in the Boulder Heights subdivision for almost 32 years, said that in the wake of Garnett's decision, "the strategy we should take as homeowners is to vote it (the property tax-supported PID) down."
Then, Hirsch said, "whey they try to impose an LID, we'll sue them."
Marasch complained that the commissioners "are refusing to even think about" funding subdivision rehabilitation from elsewhere in the county budget.
The original election complaints against Commissioners Cindy Domenico, Deb Gardner and Elise Jones were filed with the Secretary of State's Office on July 19. On Aug. 5, Stafanie Mann from that office's Elections Division wrote the complainants that they were alleging a criminal violation, something the secretary of state doesn't have the authority to investigate, and that the Boulder County District Attorney's Office "is best equipped to investigate this complaint."
Mann sent copies of her letter to the Boulder County District Attorney's Office, and Garnett wrote the complainants that his office had received their letters requesting the investigation.
Garnett wrote in his Wednesday letter that his decision against pursuing a criminal investigation "is final," although he wrote the complainants that "I understand that you may not agree with that decision."
He said that if the complainants want to challenge his decision, they can, under state law, seek a Boulder District Court judge's review of the complaints and the DA's refusal to prosecute.
Colorado's voter intimidation statute says it's illegal "for any person, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person in his behalf, to impede, prevent or otherwise interfere with the free exercise of the elective franchise of any elector or to compel, induce or prevail upon any elector either to give or refrain from giving his vote at any election ... or to give or refrain from giving his vote for any particular person or measure at any such election."
Anyone convicted of violating that voter intimidation law could be fined up to $1,000, or ordered to serve up to one year in jail, or sentenced to both a fine and a jail term.
Said Garnett: "Nobody should ever hesitate to file a complaint with my office on anything, and whenever we get a complaint, we will review it very thoroughly, as we did in this case."
Boulder County commissioners are scheduled to decide on Sept. 3 whether to put the public improvement district property tax proposal on the Nov. 5 election ballot.
John Fryar can be reached at 303-684-5211 or email@example.com.