Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

DU joins lawsuit against Amendment 54

The University of Denver has joined a lawsuit against Colorado’s Amendment 54, asserting that it is unconstitutional. The case was filed today in district court in the City and County of Denver.

Voters passed the constitutional amendment in November; it went into effect on Dec. 31, 2008.

Amendment 54 restricts certain political activities of holders of sole-source government contracts that exceed $100,000. It extends those restrictions to all of the organization’s trustees, officers and their family members.

“Because Amendment 54 is overly broad, it could have a negative impact on our trustees and their families, restricting their ability to engage freely in political issues and community causes,” says DU Chancellor Robert Coombe. “It also will have a negative impact on our ability to recruit and retain members of the Board of Trustees and senior administrators.” DU regularly partners with state agencies on projects that exceed the limits set by the amendment.

The complaint argues the ballot initiative violates free speech and association clauses on the first and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution and requests that the court grant a preliminary injunction. It requests that the defendants — Governor Bill Ritter and the Executive Director of the Department of Personnel and Administration — be enjoined from implementing or enforcing Amendment 54.

In addition to the University, the list of plaintiffs includes Pat Hamill, president and CEO of Oakwood Homes and a member of the board of trustees at DU and other community organizations; Dan Ritchie, chancellor emeritus of the University and chairman and CEO of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts; Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown; and the Children’s Hospital.

The lawsuit is being funded by the nonprofit Colorado Preservation Council, a collection of Colorado residents, nonprofits and businesses that are concerned with the broad, vague and burdensome language of Amendment 54.

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