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Elections

Filing an Election Complaint Alleging Violation of City Campaign Laws#

Any candidate or registered elector in the City who has reason to believe a violation of Chapter 7, Article V of the City Code has occurred by any person, candidate, candidate committee, issue committee, small-scale issue committee or political committee may file a written complaint with the City Clerk, no later than 60 days after the alleged violation has occurred.

The complaint must contain:

  • The name of the alleged violator;
  • The Code provision allegedly violated;
  • A brief statement or description of the offense allegedly committed and the basis for the allegation;
  • Identification of any relevant documents or other evidence;
  • Identification of any witnesses or persons with relevant knowledge; and
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the complainant.

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What Happens Next?#

Allegations of civil infraction(s)

The City Clerk will forward the complaint to the respondent by electronic mail, notifying the respondent that the alleged violation may be subject to a civil infraction.

The City Clerk will also forward the complaint to the City Attorney, who will review the complaint to determine whether the complaint (1) was timely filed; (2) contains the information required to be contained in a complaint; and (3) alleges sufficient facts to support a factual and legal basis for the alleged violations.  If the City Attorney determines that the complaint fails to satisfy any of the elements listed herein, the City Attorney will notify the City Clerk who will, in turn, notify the complainant and respondent in writing.

If the City Attorney determines that the complaint satisfies all three elements described in the previous paragraph, the City Attorney will notify the City Clerk who will, in turn, notify the respondent in writing of the presumptive penalty in accordance with the following chart:

Code Section Penalty Amount
7-134 - Registration of committees; termination.

$150 first offense
$300 each subsequent offense

7-135 - Campaign contributions/expenditures. $100 first offense
$200 each subsequent offense
7-136 - Disclosure; filing of reports. $100 first offense
$200 each subsequent offense
7-137(b) - Reports to be public record. $50 first offense
$100 each subsequent offense
7-138 - Unexpended campaign contributions. $100 first offense
$200 each subsequent offense
7-139 - Independent expenditures. $100 first offense
$200 each subsequent offense
7-140 - Responsibility for communications. $50 first offense
$100 each subsequent offense
7-141 - Expenditures for political advertising; rates and charges. $50 first offense
$100 each subsequent offense

 

The City Clerk will also notify the respondent that the respondent will have seven days from the date of the notice to submit written evidence of its cure or diligent efforts to cure the violation, including any amendments to any applicable report containing one or more deficiencies, modified campaign materials, or proof that the violation has been corrected.  The respondent’s written response is due to the City Clerk no later than 5:00 p.m. on the seventh (7th) day.  In the event the seventh day is a City holiday, the response is due no later than 5:00 p.m. the next business day.

Upon receipt of the respondent’s written response, the City Attorney may, through the City Clerk, ask the respondent to provide more information and may grant the respondent an extension of time up to seven additional days to file an amended response regarding cure in order to respond to any such request.

After the period for cure has expired, the City Attorney will determine whether the respondent has cured any violation alleged in the complaint and, if so, whether the respondent has substantially complied with its legal obligations under Chapter 7, Article V, of the City Code.  In determining whether the respondent has substantially complied with its legal obligations, the City Attorney will consider:

  • The extend of the respondent’s noncompliance;
  • The purpose of the provision violated and whether that purpose was substantially achieved despite the noncompliance; and
  • Whether the noncompliance may properly be viewed as a knowing attempt to mislead the electorate or election officials.

If the City Attorney determines the respondent has cured any violation or otherwise substantially complied with its legal obligations, the City Attorney will notify the City Clerk who, in turn, will notify the complainant and the respondent and no penalty shall apply for the corresponding alleged violation or violations, as applicable.

If the City Attorney determines the respondent has not cured the alleged violation or otherwise substantially complied with its legal obligations, the City Attorney may conduct additional review or investigation of the allegations of the complaint to determine whether to file a complaint with the Municipal Court.  If the City Attorney files a complaint with the Municipal Court, the matter shall be governed by Article V of Chapter 19 of the City Code.

A complainant or any other nonrespondent shall not be a party to the City Attorney’s initial review, cure proceedings, investigation, or any proceeding in the Municipal Court.  A complainant may request permission from the Municipal Judge or their designee to file an amicus curiae brief. 

Any person that commits a violation shall be personally liable for the penalties imposed.  Any candidate shall be personally liable for penalties imposed upon the candidate or the candidate’s committee and may use campaign contributions to pay penalties. 

Allegations of criminal violation(s)

Complaints that allege a criminal violation will be forwarded to the respondent and the City Attorney, who will evaluate the complaint for probable cause.

The following criminal violations, if found guilty, are misdemeanors and subject to a fine or imprisonment in accordance with Section 1-15 of the City Code:

  • Knowingly violating Section 7-136 of the City Code (disclosure and filing reports) with the intent to fraudulently misrepresent campaign contributions or expenditures on a disclosure report;
  • Knowingly violating Section 7-142 of the City Code (encouraging withdrawal from a campaign); or
  • Being found liable for a violation after the person has been found liable for two or more violations under Chapter 7, Article V of the City Code in a single election cycle.

 If the City Attorney determines no probable cause exists, that the complaint fails to allege an enforceable violation, or that the requirements for filing a complaint were not met by the complainant, the City Attorney will notify the City Clerk, who will then notify the complainant and respondent in writing.

If the City Attorney determines probable cause does exist, the City Attorney may notify Fort Collins Police Services, who, in consultation with the City Attorney, may file and serve a summons and complaint to the respondent.

The City Attorney retains prosecutorial discretion on whether to ultimately file criminal charges.  If the City Attorney determines filing a summons and complaint is inappropriate, the City Attorney will notify the City Clerk, who will, in turn, notify the complainant and respondent in writing.

Any person that commits a violation shall be personally liable for the penalties imposed.  Any candidate shall be personally liable for penalties imposed upon the candidate or the candidate’s committee and may use campaign contributions to pay penalties.