By Logan Smith

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – A complaint filed Wednesday on behalf of City of Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman accuses his political opponents on the City Council of using a new campaign finance ordinance in an attempt to limit his freedom of speech.

The lawsuit requests an injunction against the unconstitutional elements of the council’s ordinance.

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The first declaration of fact in the lawsuit reads, “Mike Coffman’s political opponents want to shut him up. And they’ve enlisted the government to help them do it.”

“I agree with the contribution limits placed on candidates in this ordinance,” Coffman stated in a Twitter message Tuesday afternoon. “But under the cover of campaign finance reform, the sponsors of this proposal, Council Members Nicole Johnston and Juan Marcano, have blatantly violated both the Colorado and U.S. Constitutions by inserting unrelated provisions designed to silence me.”

“This lawsuit will send a clear message to every local official in Colorado that they cannot abuse the power of government to silence their opponents,” Coffman added.

Mike Coffman (credit: CBS)

The complaint was filed at 9:55 a.m. by the Public Trust Institute, which claimed in a press release to be representing Coffman in his challenge of the law.

“A person doesn’t give up his rights just because he decides to run for office,” said Dan Burrows, the Institute’s legal director. “Mike Coffman has a constitutional right to encourage his friends and neighbors to vote a particular way, to volunteer for other people’s campaigns, and to voice his opinions on the issues just like anyone else. If you think it’s okay for the government stop someone from doing that, I’m not sure how you got through high school civics.”

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Johnston and Marcano struck back on social media at news of Coffman’s lawsuit.

“Councilmember Marcano and I sponsored campaign finance reform to bring transparency and accountability to elections,” Johnston wrote on a Facebook post. “Today Mayor Coffman is suing the City of Aurora over it.”

“The mayor is so vain he actually thinks this law is about him,” Marcano tweeted. “This ordinance does not make it illegal for any councilmembers to support or oppose candidates.”

The measure passed by a 7-3 vote during a Nov. 16 meeting.  Councilmembers Alison Coombs, Crystal Murillo, Angela Lawson, Curtis Gardner, and Allison Hiltz joined bill sponsors Johnston and Marcano in voting yes. Mayor Pro Tem Françoise Bergan, Marsha Berzins and Dave Gruber voted no.

Coffman did not vote, as is customary. The mayor does not vote on resolutions or ordinances, as noted in the voting record.

Aurora City Council (credit: City of Aurora website)

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Aurora City Council’s next scheduled meeting is March 22.

Logan Smith