Mesa County’s top electoral administrator, struggling Republican clerk and secretary Tina Peters, cannot be involved in administering her county’s November election, a judge said on Wednesday.
District Court Judge Valerie J. Robison sided with Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who filed a lawsuit in late August to prevent Peters and Deputy Clerk and Registrar Belinda Knisley from manage the next elections.
This lawsuit “fulfilled the burden of showing that Peters and Knisley committed breach and dereliction of duty and other wrongdoing.” As such, Peters and Knisley are unable or unwilling to properly perform the duties of Mesa County’s designated election official, ”the judge wrote in a 22-page ruling.
That means former Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams will oversee the Mesa County election this year. He was appointed by Mesa County Commissioners under a temporary agreement that pays him $ 180 an hour. The commissioners supported the Griswold costume.
Stephanie Reecy, spokesperson for the commissioners, said Wednesday’s decision did not significantly affect election operations in that county.
“The ballots are out. … We have already chosen Wayne Williams as our designated election official, ”she said. “So nothing changes except that the court ruled in his favor.”
Peters, who made a clear and baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen, came under scrutiny for allegedly allowing an unauthorized man access to a secure area of the county election office on May 25 , when updating the Dominion Voting software. Passwords for this update then circulated online.
Wrote Robison, “Peters failed to follow the rules and secretary’s orders in facilitating and allowing a non-employee … without a disclosed background check to gain access to a secure area via a county access card from Mesa. Knisley aided Peters in his wrongdoing by asking that the cameras be turned off. In doing so, Knisley ensured that Peters’ reprehensible behavior could not be considered. “
Peters has spent much of her time since then out of state, although she has since returned to Colorado. Her fellow Republican elected officials in Mesa County criticized her for being negligent and unapproachable during her absence.
Local, state and federal criminal investigations are ongoing.
Griswold said in a statement, “Clerk Peters has seriously compromised the security of the Mesa County voting system. The court ruling today bars Peters from further threatening the integrity of Mesa’s elections and ensures that Mesa County residents have the secure and accessible elections they deserve. As Secretary of State, I will continue to provide the support and oversight necessary to ensure the integrity of the Colorado election.
Contacted for comment on Wednesday, Peters’ attorney Scott Gessler – like Williams, a former Republican secretary of state from Colorado – told the Denver Post not to contact him “generally.” But he told the Colorado Sun that Peters plans to appeal the judge’s decision.
Gessler said in a September legal filing that there had indeed been an “unauthorized release of information on one or more publicly available websites,” but he said attempts by officials at Griswold and Mesa to removing Peters and Knisley from their roles was “grossly disproportionate and directly violating Colorado law.”