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Supervisors approve investigation of Colorado City vote

April 17, 2019 GMT

KINGMAN — A retired investigator who previously worked for the Bullhead City Police Department and Mohave County Attorney’s Office is going back to work to look into allegations of voter fraud in Colorado City.

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved County Attorney Matt Smith’s request for use of up to $8,000 to have Gary Engels conduct the special investigation.

Smith said Engels was especially well-suited to work in the isolated border community, where members of a polygamous sect can be uncooperative with outsiders. Smith told supervisors that Engels conducted other investigations involving Colorado City and members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints when he worked for his office between 2004 and 2015, and that he helped gain convictions for five men charged in cases involving underage marriage.

“He knows his way around. He has informants. He has friends up there, people that will talk to him,” Smith said of Engels. “I think he is the best qualified person to look into this matter.”

Smith said Engels already has visited Colorado City twice and determined there may be substance to allegations of election fraud. He said sources have reported that some early mail ballots were intercepted and filled out by other parties, and that there were problems with voter registration and residency.

A former Colorado City resident, Loretta Barlow, offered a possible explanation for the residency and registration confusion. She said her family of seven had been evicted by court order from their home but still used that address for registration purposes to vote in the municipal election last fall.

“I am not an isolated incident,” Barlow said. “There are hundreds of families dealing with the same thing.”

Sup. Gary Watson confirmed that many residents have been displaced because of entitlement determinations made trustees of the United Effort Plan, a trust that once controlled most of the private property in the community.

Smith said he understood Barlow’s point, but said that he thinks the election corruption allegations stretch beyond voter registration and residency matters.

Mayor Joseph Allred urged supervisors not to adopt as facts what he called untruths circulated in the media.

“There are a lot of rumors that fly around out through the media about Colorado City all of the time,” Allred said. “I just wanted to ask all of you to be careful that we’re not throwing a lot of money and time at chasing rumors.”

Christine Marie told supervisors she has come to know and respect Colorado City residents since her nonprofit organization has been providing humanitarian aid to those in need. She also said residents are unfairly portrayed by the media, and that she doesn’t believe Engels’ probe will uncover any widespread election fraud.

“I don’t buy it,” Marie said. “I know these people.”

Smith said some good will come of Engels’ presence, regardless of his findings, or lack thereof.

“I think that having someone go up there and poking around and investigation will put people on notice,” Smith said. “If in fact there is inappropriate conduct going on up there, that we are taking a look at it, that we’re taking it seriously, I think it would have a great deterrent effect. If nothing else, even if we don’t (end up) finding anything or charging anybody with any crimes, I think it will help preserve the integrity of the elections system.”