Colorado Springs City Councilman Wayne Williams targeted by recall

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
El Paso County County Commissioner and former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams at the 2022 Republican State Assembly in Colorado Springs.

Updated 4:05p.m., August 25, 2022

Colorado Springs city councilman Wayne Williams is facing a recall effort over allegations that he is too cozy with developers. 

Williams, a Republican who served as Secretary of State from 2014 to 2018, is currently running for mayor.

John Pitchford, the former Treasurer for the El Paso County Republican Party, is spearheading a recall effort. A group he registered, Integrity Matters, has launched an online fundraising page asking for donations and volunteers.

“We see a pattern of behavior that favors developers at the expense of the voters who put him into office,” states the language on the Integrity Matters website. 

The group is also seeking to recall Colorado Springs City council member Stephannie Fortune. She was appointed following the resignation of long-time District 3 councilman Richard Skorman.

“Sadly, like everything in life, [a recall] costs money and oodles of time. If you have time to do nothing else, please do give now,” states the website. “We cannot do this alone”

A spokesperson for the city said clerk's office has not yet received official notice of the recall effort.

Williams is pushing back against the group’s allegations. 

“I've helped ensure the economic vitality of our community, and people who want our economy to thrive are supporting me,” said Williams. 

He added that he doesn’t think a recall makes financial sense, noting that his term expires after the regular municipal election next April.

Williams and Pitchford have been at odds before; the two men are on opposite sides of a long-running feud that has divided the El Paso County GOP. Pitchford, the former party treasurer, is a staunch supporter of chair Vickie Tonkins. Williams is among the many local GOP officials who want Tonkins to resign.

GOP anger at Williams

Williams has also come under fire from some in recent weeks for a television ad he appeared in this month with Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold urging voters to be on their guard against election disinformation. Griswold defeated Williams four years ago when he was seeking a second term in office.

While the intent of the ad is to show bipartisan support for the integrity of Colorado’s elections system, Republicans have accused Griswold of using it to improve her image with voters ahead of her own reelection bid this fall.

While the recall website doesn’t mention the ad, Pitchford did email Williams about it just one day before sending out the blast asking for help with the recall. A source close to the situation provided CPR with a copy of the message.

“Why are you calling the political ad you made with Griswold a ‘PSA.’ You and Gena(sic) spent $425,000 to produce an alleged PSA. The average cost of producing a PSA is $15,000 to $75,000. Then you and Gena spent another $600,000 PAYING for what is normally free”, Pitchford wrote. 

It is unclear where Pitchford got the numbers he used in his email. The Secretary of State’s office said it spent roughly $1.1 million to air the thirty second spot beginning in mid-August.

Public Trust Institute, a Republican-aligned organization that frequently brings complaints against Democrats, has filed a campaign finance complaint against Griswold for the ad. 

Williams has also received pushback on the ad from some moderate Republicans, including GOP Secretary of State candidate Pam Anderson, who he has endorsed. Anderson said she doesn’t object to the contents of the ad, but is disappointed Williams was in it with her opponent this close to the midterm election. 

“I don’t have any issues with the message,” said Anderson. She said informing the public that elections are safe and secure is critically important and a major element of her own campaign. But “my concern is the timing of two declared candidates for office and the taxpayer funds that are being used for that. It’s a form of electioneering.”

Williams said he asked the Secretary of State’s Office to remove the television and digital ads earlier this week so they wouldn’t run too close to the date when ballots are being mailed out to voters. The office confirmed they stopped running Tuesday.

But despite the controversy, Williams emphasized that he stands by the goal of presenting a bipartisan rebuttal to persistent false claims of election fraud. 

“There are folks who cannot accept reality, even when you have forensic audits and hand counts. There are folks who do not want to believe the truth,” he said.

Editor's Note: The story has been corrected to reflect that Pitchford was not removed as the El Paso County Treasurer, an effort was made to remove him from office, and he resigned more than a year later.