Clerk & recorder candidate cleared in ethics probe

Anonymous email accused Crane of conflicts of interest

By Peter Jones

Matt Crane

Matt Crane

A candidate vying to be appointed as Arapahoe County’s interim clerk and recorder has been cleared by a county ethics board.

Matt Crane, the county’s deputy of elections, had been under investigation after an anonymous email to the Board of Commissioners accused him of ethics violations and conflicts of interest while working for the City and County of Denver.

Arapahoe County’s five-member Ethics Committee voted unanimously on Feb. 14 that Crane did not commit the violations outlined in the email that had been sent to the elected commissioners in late January.

Crane had been Denver’s election operations manager in 2006, when the city’s elections department was overwhelmed with Election Day problems. Glitches with Denver’s centralized registration system had resulted in very long lines at about half of the city’s vote centers.

The Jan. 27 email tried to connect Crane’s relationship with Lisa Flanagan, whom he later married, to the debacle. Flanagan works for Sequoia Voting Systems, the company that manufactured Denver’s voting machines.

The anonymous email inferred that Crane’s personal association with Flanagan might have amounted to a conflict of interest.

“Matt Crane failed to consider free, proven software used to process voters in Larimer County since 2003,” the two-page email said in part. “Instead, he negotiated with Sequoia to build a custom program for checking in voters.”

The Ethics Committee said Crane had nothing to do with Denver’s arrangement with Sequoia, concluding that the contract had been signed prior to Crane’s appointment. What’s more, the committee said Crane’s relationship with Flanagan was properly reported to his supervisors.

Flanagan still works for Sequoia, but is not involved with Arapahoe County’s contract with the elections equipment provider.

As for the software purchase decision, the committee concluded that the free product mentioned in the email would not have been sufficient for Denver’s large number of voter registrations.

The committee’s findings have been forwarded to the Board of Commissioners, which is expected to make its appointment in March when all five commissioners will be available.

Crane, who cooperated with the investigation, said he had expected to be exonerated.

“My wife and I had nothing to hide. Everything was aboveboard,” he said. “I didn’t mind the questions being asked because for the clerk’s position, it’s all about public trust, especially when it comes to elections.”

Crane said he is not sure who sent the anonymous and “cowardly” email.

“I think it’s fair to say it’s mudslinging by people who don’t want to see me get that job,” he said. “I have my suspicions about who sent it, but it’s by people who wanted to see somebody else get the job.”

Crane is one of three finalists to fill the clerk position in the wake of Clerk Nancy Doty being elected last November as a District 1 county commissioner. The other two hopefuls are former state Rep. Cindy Acree and former county Commissioner Susan Beckman, whom Doty has replaced in office.

All three are Republicans. Because Doty is an elected Republican, the GOP-majority Board of Commissioners had asked the party to assist in recruitment efforts.

According to Commissioner Rod Bockenfeld, R-Centennial, the board interviewed three of the four candidates who applied as a result of the party’s outreach.

The person eventually selected will complete the rest of Doty’s term, which expires Jan. 15, 2015.

Calls to members of the Ethics Committee for further comment had not been returned at press time.

Deputy Clerk Mary Whitley continues to manage the day-to-day operations of the clerk’s office.

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