Avon has spent over $90K on recall process, including legal expenses
The Avon Recall Committee recently said its bill is around the same amount
For over a year, the town of Avon has been engaged with the Avon Recall Committee over an effort to recall Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes and Council member Tamra Underwood.
Throughout the process, the town has incurred expenses. To date, it has spent $80,010.68 in legal expenses on the recall, as well as an estimated $10,000 to $15,000 of staff time, and expects to spend $10,000 on the upcoming coordinated election Nov. 2.
This is all according to a written report that will be included as part of the packet for Tuesday, Sept. 28 Town Council meeting.
The report lists the expenses to date as:
- $20,488.94 on “general legal expenses in response to citizen questions regarding the recall process, advising the town clerk on the recall process and in reviewing the recall petitions.”
- $59,521.74 on “legal expenses directly related to the declaratory judgment action filed to request an interpretation regarding the required number of signatures.”
- The $10,000 to $15,000 of staff time is reported as an estimate, with the caveat that “staff did not keep track of hours spent related to the recall.”
These numbers are higher than those previously provided to the Vail Daily. In June, Paul Wisor, the town attorney, said that Avon had incurred $6,300 in litigation fees on the issue by that time.
In addition, the report states other expenses could be forthcoming, including general legal expenses “related to the conduct of the recall election in accordance with the District Court order and in accordance with municipal recall election laws.”
The report does not give an estimate of these expenses but said additional legal expenses “are not anticipated” and may “arise if there is a close election or election irregularities.”
Additionally, the report states that the cost of the Nov. 2 election is estimated at $10,000 — above the previous estimate from the town of $3,000 for the coordinated election. According to the most recent report, the figure increased because “the required language that must be included on the recall ballot has increased the printing costs.”
It also adds that the new estimate includes the short-term rental tax ballot question, which will also be on the coordinated election ballot.
Members of the Avon Recall Committee have made requests at Town Council meetings for more transparency on the costs and expenses associated with the recall process.
Paul Jenick, one of the five members of the Avon Recall Committee, started his public comment at the Sept. 14 meeting by asking the council to share the “cost of your lawsuit and the associated litigation.”
“This should be public knowledge, the cost. Step up, come clean; the citizens of Avon deserve this information now, not post-election,” Jenick said. “Council has a track record of spending — the barn, one example; the bandstand, way over budget; the street painting — how much money have we wasted on this project? We started a recall; you started a lawsuit that we had to defend.”
On Aug. 2, the Avon Recall Committee filed a motion for attorney fees with the District Court. The motion stated that through June 30, “the committee reasonably and necessarily incurred $62,821 in attorney fees in response to the Town’s filing of this groundless action.”
However, Judge Granger denied this motion for attorney’s fees on Aug. 31.
“Since the Court finds that the case did not lack substantial justification or was interposed for delay, the Motion for Attorney’s Fees is denied,” read the Judge’s order.
At the Sept. 14 Town Council meeting, Todd Roehr with the recall committee said the “bill is now about $90,000.”
Timeline of events
The committee first submitted a petition with signatures requesting the recall on Oct.12, 2020. However, after the town clerk deemed the signatures as insufficient, the recall committee submitted revised petitions with additional signatures Nov. 2, which the town clerk also deemed contained an insufficient number of signatures.
From there, a debate began between the two parties over the number of signatures required to trigger a recall election. On Dec. 1, 2020, the town filed a complaint, requesting a judgment from the district court on the number of signatures required based on the recall provisions in the Colorado Constitution and Colorado Revised Statutes.
On June 23, District Court Judge Russell Granger sided with the Avon Recall Committee and held that the town had to hold a recall election for both council members. Immediately following the judge’s decision, the Town Council voted to appeal the judge’s decision under the legal advice of Wisor. However, Council member Chico Thuon had a change of heart that swayed the council’s vote and led to a withdrawal of the appeal a week later.
Now, the recall election is to take place Nov. 2 in the Eagle County general election.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.