Stagecoach Absentee voters were the deciding factor in Tuesday's water district election that replaced three incumbents with three new board members.
"Had the election depended on the votes counted at the polling place it would have been completely opposite," Morrison Creek Metropolitan Water and Sanitation District election official and district manager Steve Colby said.
After a somewhat controversial campaign period, challenging candidates Bill Maynard, Gregg Hermann and Seann Smith received more than double the votes from 170 absentee voters than they did from the 115 poll voters. That won them the election.
Incumbent candidate Rich Saterdal fell victim to the mail-in voters. He said the aggressive campaigning for the challenging candidates by Brown Thompson was a major influence in the election. Literature circulated about the candidates contained inaccurate information about the bankruptcy of the water district and the actions of the board, he said. Much of that information was repeated in literature circulated by Hermann that contained Smith and Maynard's names.
Along with the Thompson's campaign information was a mail-in ballot with his name printed on the bottom.
Colby didn't have an exact number, but he said that many of the absentee ballots had Thompson's name on them.
Saterdal questioned Thompson's motives in campaigning for the challengers and he wondered why a man in California was influencing so many Coloradans.
"I don't think it's all out in the open," he said.
In a telephone interview, Thompson, who has accumulated at least 25 lots in Stagecoach, including one 37-acre parcel, spoke plainly about his motives.
"My motives are to develop Stagecoach into a world-class community," he said. "I think the people have the right to develop what they've invested (in)."
Landowners need to know "the truth" about what is going in Stagecoach, he said.
But Saterdal is worried that Thompson's is more interested in accumulating land than spreading "the truth" through his literature, which includes past newsletter-type mailings as well as the campaign information.
Some of the newsletter-type literature circulated by Thompson included an offer to buy anyone's lot for $100.
Thompson admits he's protecting personal investments with his involvement in Stagecoach issues, but he's not trying to cheat people out of their land.
"I can give you the names of a dozen people who have offered to sell their land for $100," he said. "I told them to hold on to it."
Thompson also is sticking to his claims on the campaign literature.
Hermann, who benefited from Thompson's work, was dismayed by Saterdal's accusations.
"I think that this kill-the-messenger style of politics is exactly what we have too much of in this country," he said. "He (Thompson) made people aware of the election in the state. I think Brown is one of the most honorable people I've met."
Newly-elected board member Smith said the Water Board's discreet behavior towards the public is part of the reason why the election turned out the way it did.
"There's a lack of communication and a lack of trust," he said.
When Thompson's information was circulated, the board didn't circulate any contradictory explanations, Smith said.
Incumbent Scott Eggleston, who lost his seat Tuesday, agreed.
"A lot of that information was never rebutted," he said. "But that's just the way it goes."
Eggleston will try to stay active with the water district, but he expects that the new board will do a good job.
New board member Maynard said his only campaign promise was not to campaign. That got blown out of the water when his name was included on Hermann's literature, unknown to Maynard. He fears that people may have voted for him because of the information. Either way, he's going to try to do a good job.
"My main interest is the expansion of water and sewer," he said.
All the new board members agreed the expansion will be a big job.
"We've got a bunch of work to do right now and I'm looking forward to it," Hermann said.
Saterdal plans to stay active with the water district. He had a strong hand in starting a rate and tax levy study and would like to see it through.
However, Saterdal is wary about the new board.
"I think we're going to have a rocky period," he said, "for both Morrison Creek and the Stagecoach Property Owners (Association)."
Smith, Maynard and Herman will join Chris Zuschlag, who ran unopposed Tuesday, and board President John Wittemyer at their first meeting of the new Board of Directors of the Morrison Creek Metropolitan Water and Sanitation District on May 18.
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