CASTLE PINES, Colo. -- Two candidates in a hotly contested Denver-area metro district election are calling for a government oversight review of the election results.
Both point to 33 late-arriving ballots that may have decided the closely contested election in one of the metro area’s most affluent communities, roughly 27 miles south of Denver.
The two candidates – Tad Walden and Cynthia Cerny -- accuse the Castle Pines Metro District of election fraud in the way it handled the election for board members in May.
“I believe the election was absolutely not handled properly,” said Cerny, one of the four candidates who ran for two open spots on the board. “I have no doubt about it.”
The concern of the two candidates centers on nearly three dozen ballots that mysteriously showed up on Election Day. To date, the Castle Pines Metro District Board has not acknowledged the impact those ballots had on the election.
“It is my hope that your influence and your spotlight will be enough to attract the attention needed to expose the truth about those 33 ballots,” Cerny said.
Walden won a spot on the five-person board by just four votes. Cerny missed out on a seat on the board by six votes. Two different outcomes for the two candidates who are now speaking out, but both agree something was just not right about the way the election was handled.
When all votes were counted, just 22 votes separated the four board candidates.
“There’s wrongdoing,” Cerny said. “And it’s not acceptable.”
Walden added that the results didn’t pass the “smell test.”
Information that has been included in a post-election investigation report commissioned by the board also raises questions about the integrity and credibility of a veteran U.S. postal carrier who delivers mail in Castle Pines Village.
Attorney sends letter claiming election fraud
“I’m saying there was clear manipulation… ballot stuffing,” said Steve Long, a Denver-area attorney who is representing Cerny. “The 33 ballots, I believe those were put in on the last day in order to cause the election to have an outcome that wasn’t the real outcome.”
Following the May election, Long sent a two-page letter accusing the Castle Pines Metro District Board of election fraud. The two words were prominently displayed on the top of the letter’s first page. He outlined concerns that he believes may have prevented his client from a seat on the metro district board.
Cerny said the basis of the fraud claim is, “wrongdoing, rigging, ballot stuffing and a lack of transparency.”
Her accusations center on the 33 ballots that the metro district says arrived at around noon on Election Day. The candidates have asked district leaders to explain where they came from and to determine their impact on the final election results.
According to the independent post-election investigation report commissioned by the board, a postal carrier dropped off the ballots at the reception desk of the metro district’s office in Castle Pines Village. Election watchers report that they arrived at the same time that ballots were being counted in the office. The report says the 33 ballots did not have stamps on them when they arrived and the carrier allowed the receptionist to put stamps on the ballots so they could be accepted, which Denver7 has been told is against postal regulations.
Attempting to determine and confirm how the ballots arrived, Denver7 submitted an open records request to review the district’s internal security cameras. The review found video from hallway cameras showing a district employee handing over a bunch of ballots to another district employee.
Election watchers who were in the building at the time say that video shows the 33 ballots in question, according to the report. There were multiple active and recording security cameras inside the metro district office on Election Day.
But Denver7 Investigates found that the one camera that could have confirmed the ballots were in fact dropped off by a postal carrier was either not working or the video is no longer available. When a district employee was asked by the Denver7 Investigates team about the absence of that camera's video, he was unable to explain why it was not available for review.
Long said that, if the details in the investigation report are to be believed, a postal worker delivering ballots on Election Day without stamps or post marks that were not processed through the post office would violate regulations.
“The investigative report indicates that the ballots were dropped off by the post office, which were not postmarked,” Long, Cerny’s attorney, said. “Proper U.S. Post Office procedures would not permit that, so I know it’s baloney.”
That’s what led the Denver7 Investigates team to locate the postal carrier who delivers mail to the Castle Pines Metro District office. After a reporter identified himself, the postal carrier said she could not answer our questions and referred Denver7 to the post office’s legal team.
Denver7 informed the postal carrier that actions attributed to her are the center of this Election Day controversy. She was aware that the issue was the focus a post-election investigation. Multiple times during the interview, the carrier said she could not answer questions and referred us to the U.S. Post Office’s legal team. But, a few minutes into the interview, she elected to offer information.
“I think it is unusual they are blaming the postal service, period,” said the postal carrier known by neighbors as Wendy. “I have worked for the postal service for 22 years and I have never had a ballot problem. … I’ve worked there for 22 years and never done anything wrong.”
Reaction to the postal carrier's interview
Denver7 brought the unedited interview with the postal carrier to Walden, the newly elected board member for his thoughts on her comments, who said that her responses raises questions about the integrity of the ballots received May 5.
“It taints them and that would include me being elected,” Walden said.
The election was very close with a record number of votes. Michael Lanam was elected with 680 votes, as was Walden with 664. Jeff Battin and Cerny were not elected, receiving 660 and 658 votes respectively.
Just 22 votes separated the four candidates and six votes prevented Cerny from earning a spot on the board. Although he won a seat, Walden continues to ask for answers and accountability.
Denver7 asked the Metro District’s Board President Rick Huser and the district employee, given the responsibility as the director of elections, for interviews to answer the questions raised by the two candidates and the issues uncovered by this Denver7 investigation, including the interview with the postal carrier. Both declined the interview requests.
When asked to respond to those decisions, Walden said, “they don’t want another controversy and neither do I. But if this is true, then this needs to be dealt with. … We need an honest discussion as to what took place. We need to know the truth about those ballots.”
Denver7 Investigates also reached out to the other two candidates on the ballot. Lanam, one of the two newly-elected board members said he did not want to contribute to this report. Battin did not return the call.
In responding the letter sent by Cerny’s attorney accusing the board of election fraud, the board’s attorney denied any election fraud or improprieties in a letter.
Denver7 Investigates also asked the board to allow its team to review the 33 ballots to determine their impact on the final election results. Sources say the 33 ballots should be easy to segregate from the other ballots because of when they arrived and because they all have district postage stamps and no postmarks on them. The Castle Pines Metro District’s leadership declined to allow Denver7 Investigates to review the ballots.
The question of the role of those 33 ballots remains unanswered. Denver7 Investigates intends to reach out the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office and the Colorado Secretary of State for reaction to the concerns and claims raised by the two candidates in this report.