Pueblo Clerk candidate Rivera refutes ‘ludicrous’ campaign finance complaint
A complaint filed last week with the Colorado Secretary of State alleges that Clerk and Recorder candidate Candace Rivera committed dozens of campaign finance violations.
Rivera has denied that she knowingly did anything wrong.
“It’s unfounded and ludicrous,” Rivera said. “They’re grasping at straws.”
A motor vehicle registration technician, Robert Kenneth Brown, filed the complaint but refused to comment on the matter when contacted by The Chieftain.
Brown has been a full-time employee of the department in the Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder’s office since December 2021. Rivera’s opponent, incumbent Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz, said that he and Brown are friends outside of work, but Ortiz said that he had nothing to do with the complaint, which is still under review by the Secretary of State’s office.
Brown claimed that Rivera violated campaign finance regulations by failing to report expenditures and contributions, as well as an inaccurate filing.
Rivera admitted that she incorrectly filed expenditures in her first campaign finance report — instead of listing the business where she purchased election materials, her campaign was listed as the payee — but filed amended reports Wednesday.
An initial review from the Secretary of State’s office is due on June 29, the day after the primary.
Brown also took umbrage with a large truck promoting Rivera that has been seen around Pueblo featuring a large painted image of Rivera’s headshot and slogan in similar colors to the rest of her campaign materials.
The truck belongs to Pueblo resident and car dealership owner Luke Wodiuk, who has had public disputes with Ortiz.
Wodiuk, who is not directly affiliated with Rivera’s campaign, said that he has owned the truck for over ten years and wanted to do something to help Ortiz’s opponent.
Wodiuk said that when he found out “Candace was the only one that had the chance to get (Ortiz) off and actually win,” he took a screenshot of Rivera’s campaign signs and enlisted a friend to paint his box truck with her likeness. The truck has been parked around Pueblo along major roads during the campaign season.
Rivera said that she did not know about the truck until after Wodiuk painted it. Wodiuk said that he told Rivera the truck did not cost him any money.
Brown, citing a screenshot from Facebook Messenger between former city council candidate Brandon Martin and Dominic Nava, alleged that Rivera accepted sign stakes from Martin without reporting them to the state.
Rivera said the stakes were not used for her campaign and were returned to Martin, which he confirmed.
As of Thursday afternoon, nearly $23,000 had been raised and $16,000 spent by all of the Pueblo County clerk candidates, but not all candidates had filed reports due Friday.
Rivera, who filed her reports before the deadline, had raised more money than any other candidate with $7,495 recorded in contributions. Republican Nathan Baxter trailed Rivera with $4,800 raised but had not filed the most recent report before The Chieftain’s Thursday press deadline.
Ortiz, who was first elected to the position in 2006, has raised $2,325 for this election but started with $4,568 left over from previous campaigns.
Ortiz has accrued over $15,000 of unpaid fines from delinquent filings on reports dating back to 2016. He said that he is in discussion with the Secretary of State’s office about the fines and forgot to file new reports because he did not accept any new donations or buy any new materials.
Campaign finance regulations stipulate that candidates file new reports for every reporting period, regardless of whether or not they have new contributions or expenses to report.
Rivera is a political newcomer with a background in criminal justice challenging Ortiz in the Democratic primary. Ortiz has contended with allegations about workplace instability and turnover over the past year. An election supervisor was appointed by the Colorado Secretary of State Wednesday night amid multiple reports of ballot errors.
Anna Lynn Winfrey can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @annalynnfrey.