ERIE, Colo. (CBS4) – The Town of Erie’s municipal election has devolved into accusations of collusion, conspiracy and cover-up, even sparking a criminal investigation.

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Erie literally straddles the political divide, with ultra-conservative Weld County on one side of County Line Road, and ultra-liberal Boulder County on the other.

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Residents who spoke with CBS4 say they’ve never seen an election so nasty.

And while hot-button issues like growth and energy development are on the ballot, it’s unclear what exactly is driving the conflict.

Less than three weeks before Erie’s municipal election, hundreds of political yard signs have been targeted by vandals.

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“I would like us to think that we’re better than that,” said resident Marty Lowrey. He’s among those in the town of 26,000 that are baffled by the level of vitriol. “I would say people don’t talk as freely to other people anymore.”

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Vandalism is just the beginning. The Weld County District Attorney confirms his office investigated accusations of collusion. The investigation found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

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“Just because there’s no criminal wrongdoing doesn’t mean that there’s no ethical wrongdoing,” said longtime resident Fred Mahe, musing, “We have Russian collusion, now we have Erie collusion. Yeah, it’s incredible, it really is incredible.”

Fred Mahe (credit: CBS4)

Mahe says the chief election official is at the center of the controversy. She resigned abruptly amid allegations she colluded with a mayoral candidate and rigged a drawing to determine whose name would appear first on the ballot.

“My first thought was ‘Goodness gracious, what’s going on at Town Hall?'” said Mahe.

Town Administrator A.J. Krieger is among those who have asked for an investigation. Erie has also hired an outside election consultant, but it’s done little to quell the fears of voters like Mahe who are still worried about the integrity of the election.

“The citizens of Erie should be allowed a free and fair election,” said Mahe.

The Town Administrator told CBS4 the election’s integrity is and always has been a priority and says he’s taken steps to ensure the election is conducted properly, openly and fairly.

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The Town Administrator and Mayor are part-time positions that are supposed to be non-partisan.