No Laporte Gravel Corp. v. Board of County Commissioners.
2022 COA 6. No. 20CA1207. Campaign Contributions—Due Process Clause—Recusal—Quasi-Judicial Proceedings.
January 6, 2022
Loveland Ready-Mix Concrete, Inc. (Ready-Mix) applied to operate a gravel-pit mine and a concreter batch plant. Before the application came before the Larimer County Board of Commissioners (Board), several Ready-Mix stockholders contributed to the campaign committee to reelect incumbent Larimer County Commissioner Donnelly. Their combined $4,600 contribution made up only 7.65% of the total amount his campaign raised and 5.44% of the total spent in the election. Commissioner Donnelly ultimately was reelected and, ignoring suggestions that he recuse, later voted as part of a 2-1 majority to approved Ready-Mix’s application.
No Laporte Gravel Corporation, Robert Havis, and Peter Waack (collectively, NLGC) filed a complaint against the Board and Ready-Mix in district court for declaratory relief under CRCP 57, raising an as-applied challenge to the constitutionality of Larimer County Code § 2-67(10), which entrusts members of the Board with the sole discretion to determine whether a possible conflict of interest warrants their recusal; and review of the Board’s findings under CRCP 106(a)(4). As relevant here, the court ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on NLGC’s as-applied due process claim and entered judgment in favor of NLGC on its CRCP 106(a)(4) claim.
On appeal, NLGC contended that Commissioner Donnelly’s failure to recuse himself violated its due process rights, so the district court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of defendants. Land use decisions like Donnelly’s are considered quasi-judicial, and those serving in quasi-judicial capacities are presumed to act with impartiality. Here, NLGC failed to meet the requirement of proving actual bias beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the district court did not err.
The Board and Ready-Mix cross-appealed, arguing that the district court erred by entering judgment in favor of NLGC on the CRCP 106(a)(4) claim because the Board did not, as the court found, misapply Land Use Code § 4.5.3(C) or (F) in approving Ready-Mix’s application. Here, the Board ultimately found that the proposed project met the section 4.5.3(C) criterion, which functions as a catch-all provision that ensures a project will generally comply with the Land Use Code. The Board did not misapply 4.5.3(C). However, the Board misapplied section 4.5.3(F) by failing to consider whether the batch plant constituted an allowable “accessory use” under sections 4.3.10 or 4.3.7(E). Ultimately, though, the Board properly made the requisite finding implicitly when ruling on section 4.5.3(C). Accordingly, any prejudice from the Board’s failure to consider the issue in applying section 4.5.3(F) was necessarily remedied. Thus, the Board’s misapplication of section 4.5.3(F) was harmless.
The order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants on NLGC’s CRCP 57 claim was affirmed. The order finding in favor of NLGC on its CRCP 106(a)(4) claim and reversing the Board’s decision was reversed. The case was remanded to consider the remaining contentions in NLGC’s CRCP 106(a)(4) claim that had not yet been addressed.