Election fails to recall Barrentine from Englewood City Council

Councilmember survives in close contest, according to unofficial results

Posted 9/18/18

The months-long effort to recall Englewood City Councilmember Laurett Barrentine — initiated by four District 3 residents including two former Englewood mayors — culminated in a close Sept. 18 election that decided the councilmember will keep her seat.

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Election fails to recall Barrentine from Englewood City Council

Councilmember survives in close contest, according to unofficial results

Posted

The months-long effort to recall Englewood City Councilmember Laurett Barrentine — initiated by four District 3 residents including two former Englewood mayors — culminated in a close election that decided the councilmember will keep her seat.

Against recalling Barrentine from office were 734 voters, and 688 voted in favor, according to unofficial results by the city. That's a margin of 46 votes — 51.6 percent to 48.4 percent.

The Sept. 18 event was the first city council recall election in Englewood in more than 20 years, and just the third in city history, according to a city document.

When asked about her reaction to the results, Barrentine said, “Time to get to work,” adding she’s glad people are paying attention to issues in the city.

“I do feel blessed by the entire experience,” Barrentine said. “I’ve learned a lot, I’ve grown through it, I’ve met some amazing people.”

The election came as a result of a petition signed by residents of District 3 — roughly the southeast and middle parts of Englewood. It was filed July 3 and garnered 424 verified signatures, clearing the threshold by about 60 required names, according to the city clerk. The election was open to voters in District 3, which Barrentine represents.

The lead-up to the election highlighted stark division in the city between a group of residents who say they're standing up for transparency in the city's government, and Barrentine’s critics who say she creates a “toxic, counterproductive dynamic” on the city council.

That criticism came from Former Mayors Randy Penn, who served from 2011-15, and Jim Woodward, who served from 2007-11, in an affidavit to request the petition for the recall election. Penn and Woodward signed the document, along with two other residents of District 3. It accuses Barrentine of “bullying and unwarranted threats to fire City employees” and of “regular distortion of facts and outright lies.”

The document was received by the city April 17.

Barrentine has said that the group's grievances are vague, adding that she's “offended” by the idea that staff needs to be protected from council.

“It's just sad, all of this trying to stir the pot,” she said previously. I “think they're disappointed that council is getting along so well.”

Barrentine believes a main reason for the recall is her desire for information on two private bodies: the Englewood Environmental Foundation and Englewood McLellan Reservoir Foundation — commonly known as “EEF” and “EMRF” — that oversee property that the city has varying degrees of control over.

“I believe I was being recalled because I insisted on this forensic audit,” Barrentine said previously. “Because people who had stewardship over this city didn't do a good job of” overseeing the bodies.

The city created EEF in the late 1990s to oversee redevelopment of the former Cinderella City mall into the CityCenter Englewood site, in the areas along Englewood Parkway west of South Santa Fe Drive, a city fact sheet said. Around that time, it also established EMRF to oversee property development, to “enhance and diversify” the city's revenues and to protect the water supply in and around McLellan Reservoir, another fact sheet said. The reservoir sits near C-470 and Santa Fe Drive.

“I think that mandate (for an audit) is starting to come from the community as well,” Barrentine said after the election.

Steve Yates, a former at-large councilmember who supported the recall effort, was disappointed in the election results and thinks “we were not as effective at getting the message out.” But, Yates said, the recall was never about a potential forensic audit, which could seek wrongdoing in how EEF and EMRF have been managed.

“It was about her actions,” said Yates, who served on council alongside Barrentine, adding, “The majority of the community is not interested in an audit. It’s a waste of money that could go toward critical infrastructure.”

On the other hand, if the city were to undergo a performance audit — a look at how to best run EEF and EMRF but not seeking misconduct — the bodies would likely end up under the control of city council and the city manager, which is “what she wants” anyway, Yates said.

Yates said potential wrongdoing — alleged to have occurred years ago under a previous public-works director for the city — could cost tens of thousands of dollars to ferret out in a forensic audit.

“Council needs to concentrate on how to improve our revenue streams instead of going after a witch hunt,” Yates added.

District 3 includes roughly 5,000 active registered voters, said Stephanie Carlile, city clerk. This election’s total of 1,422 votes fell just short of the total 1,463 votes in the 2015 election for the council seat, in which Barrentine faced two opponents and garnered 668 votes. Her four-year term expires in November 2019.

The election is estimated to cost the city about $13,000, including Arapahoe County's fees, Carlile said. The District 1 vacancy election in May, which elected Councilmember Othoniel Sierra to former Mayor Joe Jefferson's old seat, cost about $11,000, including the county's fees.

The election was conducted by mail ballots. Still outstanding were 33 absentee ballots and 22 ballots with signature discrepancies, which all have until Sept. 26 to be returned, Carlile said.

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