Monday, 6 Dec 2021

Denver City Attorney sues to stop 72-hour deadline on camping ban initiative

Earlier this month Denver’s Clerk and Recorder’s Office mailed out nearly 460,000 ballots for the city’s November election and already there’s an issue with one of the measures.

The Denver City Attorney’s Office sued the head of the local Republican party Friday to try and stop a portion of Initiated Ordinance 303 on the ballot, which would build on the city’s camping ban and allow people to sue if officials don’t enforce the law within a strict timeline.

Garrett Flicker, chair of the Denver Republican Party, proposed the ordinance and said it would help officials grapple with the city’s out-of-control homeless problem. As it’s written the measure would, if passed, require written permission for camping on private property. It would also cap the number of city-sanctioned campsites at four and mandate that city officials take action against campsites within three days of receiving a complaint and allow people to sue the city if it misses that deadline.

That 72-hour deadline is what caught the attention of City Attorney Kristin Bronson, who sued Flicker and four others behind the ordinance on Friday in Denver District Court.

The deadline is unlawful, Bronson argued in the complaint, because it infringes on the city’s “administrative functions” by mandating the way in which city officials would enforce a law, in this case its urban camping ban. That deadline doesn’t take into account the discretion given to law enforcement. Nor does it consider the source of the complaint, whether there is probable cause for any enforcements, health and safety concerns and whether additional “resources should be expended” to address a complaint.

“The executive branch has inherent discretion to enforce criminal laws,” Bronson wrote. “Initiative 303 infringes upon Denver’s executive authority to exercise that discretion and enforce, or not enforce, its laws.”

Plus any person could sue the city if officials fail to meet that deadline, Bronson added. She asked the judge to declare the measure unlawful and to strike the clause imposing the 72-hour deadline and allowing people to sue.

Along with that lawsuit, Bronson also asked for an expedited hearing so the matter could be resolved before the Nov. 2 election.

Flicker called the lawsuit a waste of taxpayer money and resources and said he believes it’s an attempt to intimidate him and others supporting the measure.

“Ultimately the city needs to take responsibility for the homelessness epidemic. They shouldn’t be punishing private citizens who come up with initiatives,” Flicker said. “It’s absurd and paints a terrible picture for the city of Denver.”

Flicker also asked why the city is suing him rather than taking action against the Clerk and Recorder’s Office, which placed the measure on the ballot.

Alton Dillard, a spokesman for Clerk and Recorder Paul Lopez, said his office was required to place Flicker’s measure on the city’s November ballot because those behind the petition gathered enough signatures to place it there.

“By law, the clerk’s office does not have the authority to analyze the substance of proposed citizen initiatives,” Dillard said in a statement. “The clerk will comply with any instruction or order issued by the court.”

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