By Randi Pierce
Allegations of campaign fraud have been launched against Michael Hayward, candidate for county commissioner, District 2.
According to reports obtained from the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, several Archuleta County citizens are alleging that Hayward’s campaign has violated Colorado statute by offering funding to non-profits in return for votes, equating the practice to bribery.
Hayward has publicly promised in a variety of ways that, if elected, he will donate his paychecks to area non-profits, and is currently running a poll on his website to select favored charities.
Hayward maintains that his campaigning is legal.
Hayward said Wednesday that he contacted the Secretary of State’s office and spoke to a campaign finance attorney who deemed his approach legal, and he cited Mitt Romney and John F. Kennedy as examples of politicians who vowed to give their salaries to charity.
“If people did their research, they’ll find out it has been done before,” Hayward said.
In his e-mail to the SOS office, Hayward stated that his opponent, Clifford Lucero, had made accusations concerning the promise. Lucero is not mentioned in the ACSO’s incident narrative on the matter.
“This is not my main and only campaign message (see my web site at http://hayward4cc.com/),” Hayward wrote. “My main focus is I am a Citizen not a Politician and have great business skills that would be beneficial to the community. I really love this community and this is an opportunity for me to help the county as well as local charities.
“My promise is an assurance to the voters of Archuleta County that I will not be influenced by the money since I plan to give it back to the community.”
The e-mail further states that, once he claims the paycheck as income, he should be able to do with it what he pleases and cites Herbert Hoover and Romney as examples of a similar practice.
Hayward also noted that Archuleta County Clerk and Recorder June Madrid had reportedly checked into the legality of his offer.
“I’ve never talked to him at all,” Madrid said, clarifying that the only time she has spoken with the SOS office concerning giving away paychecks occured when the county was facing bankruptcy, but added that she did check with the state’s campaign finance office recently, and was told Hayward’s offer was not relevant to campaign finance law because campaign donations were not involved.
The complaints filed against Hayward, however, concern alleged violations of Colorado state statute.
The ACSO completed a preliminary investigation into the matter before forwarding the documents to Todd Risberg, district attorney for the Sixth Judicial District, for review this week, according to Sheriff Pete Gonzalez, who stated that the department completed only a preliminary investigation in order to avoid a conflict of interest.
“As a result of complaints from two citizens, my office has conducted a preliminary investigation of those allegations and have forwarded those documents to the District Attorney’s office for review,” said Gonzalez.
Risberg said he had looked at the reports submitted by the ACSO, and added that it would be the end of the week before a decision would be reached regarding the allegations. Risberg explained that a certain process must be followed in cases involving elections.
Risberg said an affidavit must be filed requesting the DA’s office to investigate the matter — something he indicated was in progress Wednesday morning — then the case would be investigated and a decision reached.
An examination of Colorado statute shows two sections that may be pertinent:
• 1-13-720(1)(a) — “It is unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly, by himself or through any other person: (a)To pay, loan, or contribute, or offer or promise to pay, loan, or contribute, any money or other valuable consideration to or for any elector, or to or for any other person, to induce such elector to vote or refrain from voting at any election provided by law or to induce any elector to vote or refrain from voting at such election for any particular person or to induce such elector to go to the polls or remain away from the polls at such election or on account of such elector having voted or refrained from voting for any particular person or issue or having gone to the polls or remained away from the polls at such election; or”
• 1-13-721 — “1) It is a misdemeanor for any person, directly or indirectly, by himself or through any other person: (a) Before or during an election provided by law, to receive, agree to accept, or contract for any money, gift, loan, or other valuable consideration, office, place, or employment, for himself or any other person, for voting or agreeing to vote, or for going or agreeing to go to the polls, or for remaining away or agreeing to remain away from the polls, or for refraining or agreeing to refrain from voting, or for voting or agreeing to vote or refraining or agreeing to refrain from voting for any particular person or measure at any election provided by law; (b) During or after an election provided by law, to receive any money or other valuable thing on account of himself or any other person for voting or refraining from voting at such election, or on account of himself or any other person for voting or refraining from voting for any particular person at such election, or on account of himself or any other person for going to the polls or remaining away from the polls at such election, or on account of having induced any person to vote or refrain from voting for any particular person or measure at such election.”