The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office said Monday that its officials are investigating whether Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario broke campaign finance laws by using his office’s public resources to support U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert.
In a letter obtained by The Denver Post, a legal analyst with the Secretary of State’s Office, confirmed that they had received an official complaint about Vallario and found “potential violations of Colorado campaign finance laws.” The office gave Vallario ten business days to respond to the allegations.
A representative for the Secretary of State’s Office declined to comment and a representative for Vallario did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
David Wheeler filed the complaint against Vallario in late August. Wheeler is the head of American Muckrakers, a political action committee trying to unseat Boebert. He accused the sheriff of using his official position and email account urging voters to support Boebert and disparaging her Republican primary opponent.
In his Aug. 26 complaint, Wheeler included an email he obtained from Vallario’s official email account, obtained through Colorado open records laws. The sheriff appears to have sent the message to himself on June 13, a Monday, at 11:25 a.m. with the subject line “FW: Phone.”
“Hi, this is Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario calling on behalf of Lauren Boebert for Congress. Make no mistake, Lauren Boebert is the only candidate in the Republican primary supporting law enforcement,” the email says. “I strongly encourage you to vote for Lauren Boebert and get your ballot turned in today.”
“Don Coram, Lauren’s opponent, is downright awful when it comes to law enforcement,” the message continues. “Coram decriminalized the extremely dangerous drug fentanyl. Coram gave illegal immigrants driver’s licenses. And Coram said he wants the courts to make sure illegal immigrants stay right here unpunished. Even worse, Coram voted to unleash lawsuits against police officers.”
It is not clear who received the endorsement from the sheriff’s official email account.
The law cited in the Secretary of State’s response to wheeler is one prohibiting public officials from using public money “to support or oppose a candidate.” Another state law prohibits state employees from using state facilities or resources “or the authority of any state office in support of any candidate” and prohibits them from campaigning “actively” for any candidate.
Wheeler also accused Vallario of harassing him, violating his civil rights and embarrassing him while still using his official email account to support Boebert. He also accused the sheriff of posting videos to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page expressing “purely political statements and endorsements.”
Vallario now has ten business days to either fix – or “cure” – the alleged violations or dispute them, the Secretary of State’s office wrote.
Wheeler’s organization has been sharing information about Boebert online for months now, trying to unseat her as she runs for reelection against Democrat Adam Frisch. He also asked Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office to investigate any relationships between Boebert and Vallario in August after deputies were called to their neighborhood in Silt for a disturbance involving her husband.