Aurora Council candidate Naquetta Ricks’ ward residency stirs controversy
AURORA| Concerns of whether Aurora City Council Candidate Naquetta Ricks lives in the council ward where she’s trying to unseat incumbent Marsha Berzins, and beat out three other challengers, prompted a special meeting by the Aurora Election Commission earlier this election season and has left lingering questions.
Up until the beginning of October, Ricks said she lived at 13651 E. Alaska Place in Ward III. But a lock box on the door and a roll-off in the driveway at that address prompted competitors to ask where Ricks was living if it wasn’t at the address she provided to the city.
At the Sept. 12 special Election Commission meeting, which City Clerk Linda Blackston said Ricks was invited to and did not attend, Ricks’ address was discussed.
The Aurora City Clerk and Recorder office verifies a candidate’s address by cross referencing with the candidate’s voter registration. At the time of the special meeting, Ricks’ given address matched her voter registration, which is the only vetting the city does to verify that a candidate lives in the ward they are running in.
When the Aurora Sentinel asked Ricks where she was living in late September, she said she moved from the Alaska Place address because it had been foreclosed on and, as a renter, she had been forced to move. Arapahoe County records show the home was set for auction in July. Ricks said she was certain her new address was also within Ward III, and provided it. The city charter dictates that candidates in ward council races live in their ward for at least a year. Moving from one Ward III address to another Ward III address would still allow Ricks to be on the ballot.
Days after the Sentinel’s inquiry, Ricks updated her address with the city clerk to show she currently lives on 364 Nome St., owned by Georgia Bellamy, which is in the ward. Ricks has also updated her voter registration to reflect the Nome Street address.
A resident at the Nome Street home, who Ricks later identified as her landlord, told the Sentinel on Oct. 2 Ricks had been living there for about a month. Ricks said she moved from the Alaska Place address to the Nome Street address on Sept. 1.
Despite that, other Ward III candidates say they are still wary whether Ricks is living in Ward III. She owns a home in Ward V on 4352 S. Billings Circle, according to Arapahoe County assessor records. When asked about that address, Ricks said she does own the property, but it is her sister that lives in the home.
While not her place of residency, Ricks has been using the Billings Circle address to make contributions to other candidates. In June, she made a $10 contribution to U.S. Rep. Jared Polis’ campaign for Colorado governor from the Billings Circle address. On the same day, Ricks also made a $10 contribution to Aurora City Council at-large candidate Abel Laeke with the Billings Circle address.
Ricks said that address was likely listed because it is the address associated with her credit card.
The contribution address, at least for the city, doesn’t mean much for the residency question, however. David Lathers, an assistant city attorney, said that when people make a donation it’s not a statement about their residency.
“Persons contributing to campaigns might do so from their home, their second or vacation home, their place of business or from a club or organization they frequent,” he said in an email. “When these donations are then reported by candidates we, the city, are not being given affidavits by the donors, but are receiving information from a third party about a source of a donation. The information may or may not be accurate, coming, as it does, from a third party, and whether it is or is not accurate it tells the city nothing of relevance about the residency of the person making it.”
Ricks said the circumstances of her move is a reinforcement for her decision to run for office.
“So many other people have been displaced because of (rising home prices). Housing is so expensive,” Ricks said. “I’m fortunate to have found another home. Those are the things we who are running (for city council) should be concerned about.”
The story has been corrected from an earlier version that omitted “South” from Ricks’ address on Billings Circle.