Fire district election mailer trips on rules

Distracted by other work, Mannix characterizes mistake as oversight

Fliers went out last month to residents in the Animas Fire Protection District that in fine print read: “Paid for by Taxpayers for Fiscal Responsibility.”

But the fliers weren’t paid for by the political committee as advertised. Rather, the mailings will be paid for by a different committee, called Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, which was set up by Jeff Mannix about a week after the fliers were mailed, he said.

Mannix, who now is running for the board of directors, called it an oversight. He said he was busy with other election matters and didn’t take the time to form a new committee with the Colorado Secretary of State. He also said he didn’t realize he needed to form a candidate’s committee to advertise for himself and three other candidates.

“I was thinking I didn’t need a committee formed until it started taking in or spending money,” Mannix said during an interview Tuesday.

The flier urges voters to support four candidates in the May 8 mail-in election: Tony Whittle, Bud Deering, Mike Murray and Mannix.

Mannix said those candidates are most interested in resolving funding, staffing and management issues within the consolidated fire district.

Joe Lloyd, another candidate, said the oversight is typical of how the current board of directors operates, which is often in secret.

“There’s not a lot of transparency,” he said.

Candidates aren’t required to put disclaimers on mailings saying who paid for it unless the sender is not affiliated with the candidate, said Andrew Cole, spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State.

Nine candidates are running for three open seats on the Animas Fire district board of directors. The existing board gave notice in November that it intends to separate from the Durango Fire & Rescue Authority.

Such a move would dramatically reshape the operating structure of fire services in the 325-square-mile district.

The election could determine whether Animas Fire further explores withdrawing from the fire authority or rescinds its letter of intent to separate.

Mannix set up Taxpayers for Fiscal Responsibility in October to oppose Durango Fire Protection District Referendum 4A, which dealt with the tax structure of the district.

He said it was a “little faulty” that the fliers have a slightly different committee name printed on them than the one that will pay for them, but it wasn’t “nefariously dreamed up.”

He did eventually set up a candidate’s committee, and he will take donations and expense the fliers to the new committee.

“It was true in it’s intent, and it’s true when the bills get paid,” Mannix said. “I suppose I should have had that committee opened before anything was mailed with that name on it. I didn’t even think of it.”

shane@durangoherald.com

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