Matt Soper

A screenshot of Matt Soper's campaign website.

Update, 1/4: According to the credentialing committee, the Edwards complaint, initially filed with the secretary of state, was dismissed Friday morning because the surety bond of $13,000 was not posted by the complainant.

The credentialing committee of the House seated Rep. Matt Soper permanently during Friday morning's proceedings. However, Assistant Majority Leader Chris Kennedy of Lakewood, a member of the committee, said the committee "reserves the right" to accept new evidence related to the Soper complaint, an indication the matter is not yet resolved.

Soon after the Colorado General Assembly opens for business Friday, leaders of the state House will confront a decision: what to do about a new lawmaker facing questions about his residency.

Republican Matt Soper has been elected to represent House District 54, which covers most of Mesa County except for Grand Junction and part of western Delta County.

A number of complaints to authorities allege Soper did not live in the district for the 12 months preceding the November election, which is required by law.

Two of those complaints were filed with the district attorney of the 7th Judicial District  and with Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, both before the Nov. 6 election. 

The issue: Soper has claimed to live at 10 Hartig Drive in Delta, which is in House District 54. But that claim is disputed by a family that lived at that address and which rented the home from Soper's mother.

According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Soper's mother asked the tenants a year before the election if Soper could have his mail delivered to that address, which they agreed to. He has since voted at least three times using that address.

Soper's mother, Betty Ann Soper, later evicted the family -- which included three disabled adults -- from the home, where they had lived since August 2016. They moved out in late November, the Sentinel reports.

That's what prompted former Palisade trustee Dave Edwards to file a formal complaint in the 7th Judicial District, housed in Montrose County, alleging Soper was voting from an address where he did not live, a felony under state law.

A second complaint, with Denver, claims Soper filed paperwork for his run for the state House using a false address. McCann has since sent that complaint on to the district attorney at the 7th Judicial District for resolution.

Soper previously faced a campaign finance complaint, filed in October, that alleged Soper failed to properly report campaign expenses. Under Colorado law, a candidate has 15 days to "cure" those errors without penalty, and Soper did so. The complaint was dismissed Nov. 29.

Soper's election results have been certified, so along with the other 64 members of the General Assembly, he can be sworn in on Friday.

But that's not the end of it.

Edwards has also filed a complaint with the secretary of state's office and the Colorado House over the residency issues. He sent in a new version of that complaint to incoming Secretary of State Jena Griswold on Thursday.

Edwards told Colorado Politics Thursday that he's been told by the secretary of state's office that he has to post a $13,000 bond with the complaint. The deadline for that is Friday at 8 a.m.

Edwards said he doesn't have the money and believes the office is relying on a statute (and process) that doesn't require a bond.

The bond is critical; according to members of the credentialing committee of the House, without the bond, the complaint with the House could go away.

Edwards included in his complaint an affidavit from one of the residents of 10 Hartig Drive (until Nov. 28), Omar Carreon, who said that between May 2017 and when the residents were evicted on Nov. 28, only he, his brother and his parents lived in the home.

Soper had claimed the house was his home "in his mind."

In order to qualify as a candidate in House District 54, Soper had to be living in the house beginning one year to the day before the election. Carreon said he learned Soper was using his home for residency purposes in September.

A few days before Oct. 19, Carreon, accompanied by Daily Sentinel reporter Charles Ashby, checked the home's mailbox. Inside were four ballots for the general election, including one for Soper. 

The credentialing committee -- Majority Leader Alec Garnett, Assistant Majority Leader Chris Kennedy, and Minority Leader Patrick Neville -- will meet Friday right after the session is gaveled in to review the status of the complaint.

They can choose to temporarily seat Soper (which appears to be likely), and then wait for the investigation in the House to play out. 

Kennedy told Colorado Politics that the committee will determine whether the contest results were properly filed. If the committee has sufficient evidence, they can decide whether to permanently seat Soper or not.

Kennedy said it's possible the committee may not have all the information necessary to make a permanent decision regarding Soper and may seek a delay.

The committee would then proceed with an investigation into the complaint against Soper's claim of residency.

This isn't the first time the House has had to deal with a credentialing issue, but it's been a while.

In 1998, Republican Pam Rhodes challenged the ballot count that led to the election of Democrat Rep. Paul Zimmerman, who served from 1997 to 2000 in the General Assembly. His district included parts of Adams, Boulder and Weld counties.

The 1998 race went to a statutory recount, since Zimmerman won by 130 votes, according to the House Journal of Jan. 6, 1999. According to the complaint filed by Rhodes' attorney, Timothy Tymkovich, Boulder County had erred in giving the wrong ballots to 270 district voters in Boulder County and that those ballots did not list either Rhodes or Zimmerman. The secretary of state ordered that those 270 ballots not be counted.

After the recount, which confirmed Zimmerman's victory, Rhodes withdrew her complaint. Adoption of the credential committee report, which had been on hold for almost a month, was then completed on Feb. 1.

Edwards told Colorado Politics that if the credential committee does not investigate Soper, the House should convene an ethics committee to investigate Soper's residency issue. 

Soper so far has not responded to a request for comment on the matter.


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