Hotel Clovis sign raises concerns

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks A sign hung from Hotel Clovis seeking support of an Aug. 2 election to decide an affordable housing plan for the city has drawn concern from opponents.

Sharna Johnson

Just one week from election day, we have a sign. It reads: “SAVE ME VOTE YES AUGUST 2nd” in large red letters.

The banner across Hotel Clovis supporting the city’s Affordable Housing Plan went up Sunday, bringing even more controversy to the issue forced to election by a private citizens group concerned with government growing larger.

Tim Ashley is a member of the High Plains Patriots.

The High Plains Patriots are a local group advocating less government. When the City Commission approved the Affordable Housing Plan, the Patriots gathered the required number of signatures to force the issue to a referendum vote, resulting in next week’s election.

Ashley said he is concerned the sign is on city property and does not identify who paid for it.

“If the sign is of a campaign nature, I don’t think it should be on city property,” he said.

“I think it’s pretty clearly a political sign. I thought all political advertising had to have a ‘paid for by’ (disclosure) on it … But if they can legally do it, they can legally do it.”

Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield said the sign is part of a marketing strategy she heard discussed at a meeting of “People for Progress,” those who share an interest in seeing the housing plan passed and who are concerned about preserving the hotel.

“Mr. (Steve) Crozier has control of the building and he liked the idea,” she said. “The People for Progress paid for the sign.”

Brumfield described the group as a diverse group of people in the community — from business people to non-profit organizations — who share an interest in seeing the Affordable Housing Plan passed and who are concerned about preserving the hotel.

Brumfield said it is her understanding the sign would not violate campaign disclosure rules because it is displayed on private property — by virtue of the lease — with the consent of the leasor.

She said opponents of the Affordable Housing Plan have distributed a newspaper and signage that did not disclose who paid for or sponsored the materials.

City officials say they had nothing to do with the sign on Hotel Clovis.

City Manager Joe Thomas said though the city owns the building, it is leased by Crozier, a Taos developer.

“He does have an active lease on the property and it’s paid up, so … he has the authority by virtue of having the property leased to authorize something like that,” he said.

Crozier plans to convert the abandoned hotel into low-income housing units.

The more than $12 million project would be paid for through the use of tax credits, private investments and up to $1.4 million in grants and loans from the city.

Officials have said without the ability to borrow money from the city, an arrangement they say is only possible if the plan is implemented, Crozier will not have enough money to complete the project.

Crozier could not be reached for comment.

Paul Tankersley, who owns a store on Main Street, said he has attended People for Progress meetings as a business owner and hotel supporter but stopped short of calling himself a member of the group.

He said he was surprised and pleased to see the sign when he drove by on his way to church Sunday.

“As far as I know it was paid for through funds that we raised,” he said. “I don’t know exactly who hung it up, I’m just happy to see it.”

Thomas Dow, who serves as general counsel for the secretary of state, said while he cannot specifically address the banner placed on the hotel, by law, materials which advocate for a specific candidate or ballot measure must identify the sponsor.

“In general any type of campaign sign that’s advocating for or against any type of candidate or ballot measure needs to show who’s paying for it,” Dow said.

“I think the intent of that law is to have disclosure on who is printing and circulating material.”

When the secretary of state’s office receives a complaint, Dow said it first seeks voluntary compliance but can ask the relevant district attorney or the attorney general to evaluate a case for prosecution.

“Sometimes this stuff is a matter of people not realizing that their act is governed by portions of the code,” he said.