Mesa County’s top election administrator, the embattled Republican Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, cannot be involved in the administration of her county’s November election, a judge ruled Wednesday.
District Court Judge Valerie J. Robison sided with the Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who in late August filed a lawsuit seeking to block Peters and Deputy Clerk and Recorder Belinda Knisley from handling the next election.
That lawsuit “met the burden of showing that Peters and Knisley have committed a breach and neglect of duty and other wrongful acts. As such, Peters and Knisley are unable or unwilling to appropriately perform the duties of the Mesa County Designated Election Official,” the judge wrote in a 22-page ruling.
This means that former Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams will oversee Mesa County elections this year. He was appointed by the Mesa County commissioners, under a temporary agreement that pays him $180 an hour. The commissioners supported Griswold’s suit.
Stephanie Reecy, a spokeswoman for the commissioners, said Wednesday’s ruling doesn’t much affect elections operations in that county.
“Ballots are out. … We have already proceeded with Wayne Williams as our designated election official,” she said. “So nothing changes except that the court has ruled in favor.”
Peters, who has prominently and baselessly claimed that the 2020 election was stolen, has been under scrutiny for allegedly letting an unauthorized man access a secure area at the county election office on May 25, during an update to Dominion Voting software. Passwords from that update later circulated online.
Wrote Robison, “Peters failed to follow the rules and orders of the Secretary by facilitating and allowing a non-employee … without a disclosed background check to have access to a secured area via a Mesa County access card. Knisley aided Peters in her wrongful acts by requesting that the cameras be disabled. In doing so, Knisley ensured that the wrongful behavior of Peters could not be viewed.”
Peters spent much of her time since then out of state, though she has since returned to Colorado. Fellow Republican elected officials in Mesa County blasted her as negligent and inaccessible during her absence.
Criminal investigations at the local, state and federal levels are underway.
Griswold said in a statement, “Clerk Peters seriously compromised the security of Mesa County’s voting system. The court’s decision today bars Peters from further threatening the integrity of Mesa’s elections and ensures Mesa County residents have the secure and accessible election they deserve. As secretary of state, I will continue to provide the support and oversight needed to ensure the integrity of Colorado’s elections.”
Reached for comment Wednesday, Peters’ attorney Scott Gessler — like Williams, a former Republican Secretary of State in Colorado — told The Denver Post not to contact him “as a general matter.” But he told the Colorado Sun that Peters plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.
Gessler stated in a September legal filing that there was indeed an “unauthorized release of information on one or more publicly available websites,” but he said that attempts by Griswold and Mesa officials to remove Peters and Knisley from their roles were “wholly disproportionate and directly violate Colorado law.”