Steamboat Springs A complaint filed to the Secretary of State against the Steamboat Springs City Council president and city manager is officially dead.
A state judge has dismissed the lawsuit that alleged Council President Kathy Connell and City Manager Paul Hughes violated the Fair Campaign Practices Act. Hughes made the announcement at Tuesday night's council meeting and said the case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be resubmitted.
"It is unfortunate that it cost a lot of money," Hughes said.
Former City Councilman John Ross had withdrawn the complaint two weeks earlier, stating he no longer wanted to proceed with the case due to health problems.
In October, Ross filed the complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State's office stating the city violated the act when Connell handed out a letter, which was co-written by Hughes, at a local supermarket supporting the Steamboat Springs Water Authority.
On Nov. 5, the water authority was voted down in the general election. Three days later, the Colorado Division of Administrative Law set Feb. 4 as a hearing date for the case.
At Tuesday's meeting, Connell talked about lobbying the state to get more proof before sending future complaints to a hearing.
Even if a complaint is unwarranted, a lack of funding in the Secretary of State's office prevents the office from investigating cases and dismissing those that are frivolous. That means hearings are required for all complaints, City Attorney Tony Lettunich had said.
"I don't know if there is anything we can send to the state to say we hope there is some way, some kind of regulation, that people need to have some type of proof of something before the thing can be (heard)," Connell said to the council.
In the complaint, Ross said Connell was passing out a two-page letter in front of Safeway on Oct. 20, 2002. The letter, he said, was written by Mount Werner Water District Manager Bob Stoddard and Hughes and had been published in Steamboat Today.
The letter explained the history of the two entities, the power of the proposed water authority board and why rates were different.
Ross said the letter had been prepared by city staff on city hours and used city resources, which he believed was in violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. He also said Hughes had signed the letter as the Manager of the City of Steamboat Springs and was directed to write the letter by the City Council.
But Lettunich had said the letter was written on Hughes' personal time and he did not use city resources to write the letter. He also pointed to a provision in the Fair Campaign Practices Act that allows up to $50 in public funds to be spent on ballot issues. It is also legal, Lettunich said, for council members to campaign on their own time and money.