AURORA, Colo. — Aurora City Council members will consider a new bill that would create harsher penalties for petition signature gatherers who utilize deceptive practices.
“Councilmember [Curtis] Gardner had brought forward a provision … to our current unlawful practices related to petition gathering ordinance. And it would basically just say a person may not use deceptive practices when gathering for a petition,” said Councilmember Alison Coombs. “It would be punishable under the general penalty clause of the city, which is up to a $2,650 fine and 364 days in jail.”
Coombs said the bill was proposed after some residents signed a petition in support of changing term limits for council members and the mayor. However, according to Coombs, residents later found out that the petition also included changes to the city's mayoral system, essentially giving the mayor more power over city administrators.
“The petition gatherers are telling them, 'This is a term limits, provision or proposal.' And so people are pretty upset. They're like, 'We signed this, but we're not trying to get rid of our city management,'” Coombs said.
While she supports penalties for deceptive petition practices, Coombs believes that the bill, as it is currently written, does not go far enough.
“Myself and some other colleagues did ask for some kind of language that would make the company that's paying for and training the petition gatherers be responsible, versus the individual doing the petition gathering,” the council member said. “What I've heard from the petition gatherers is that they're also not being given the full story.”
Mosaic Church of Aurora Pastor Reid Hettich said he has been approached by signature gatherers that don’t appear to know the full details of a petition.
“There are times that petition gatherers or signature gatherers don't even know what they're doing. I've had a couple times where I've been approached, and they've asked me to sign something, and they couldn't quite articulate what it was. And I would read through it myself and find out it was something different than what they're portraying,” Hettich said.
The pastor said the discussion surrounding Aurora’s form of mayoral government is important.
“But it has to be done in a way that is just and right and accurate, or it defeats the whole purpose,” Hettich said.
Coombs said the bill had nearly unanimous support during a recent city council work session. City council will hear the first reading of the bill during a meeting on Monday.
To watch Monday's meeting, click here.