A member of the Aspen Election Commission said he is seeking a “second opinion” from an outside attorney on whether the commission should approve two public-records requests to inspect paper ballots cast in May’s municipal election. During Wednesday’s commission meeting, member Ward Hauenstein asked City Attorney John Worcester for his legal opinions on the matter, but noted that he also has sought independent counsel. Hauenstein said he likely will ask the Aspen City Council to pay for the outside legal fees at an upcoming meeting.
In his capacity as city attorney, Worcester also provides legal advice to city boards and commissions, such as the Election Commission. But he also is representing the city in its battle against political activist Marilyn Marks’ lawsuit, which stems from the city clerk’s denial of her request to examine ballot images from the 2009 mayor’s race.
Marks, who ran second in that race to Mayor Mick Ireland, recently won a state appellate court victory in the case. A three-judge panel ruled that the ballot images from the election were a public record. The city, represented by Worcester, is planning to file a motion to appeal with the state Supreme Court this week.
Hauenstein told Worcester and election commissioners Bob Leatherman and Kathryn Koch that he is seeking as much legal advice as possible because he doesn’t want to face the prospect of heavy fines or jail time for denying a legitimate Colorado Open Records Act request. Koch is Aspen’s city clerk, and as the keeper of municipal records, she denied Marks’ request to inspect the ballot images two years ago.