Three local women are questioning how a peaceful meeting they hosted became the focus of a memo on "sovereign citizens" issued by city manager David Torgler.
In late June, Torgler sent an email notifying city council and staff members of an upcoming meeting hosted by a "group of sovereign citizens." He said he learned of the meeting from the Delta Police Department.
"They will be here doing a fundraiser for the sovereign citizen who was shot and killed in the Oregon standoff," the memo stated. "It has been reported that among the people attending will be the sovereign citizen's wife who was shot and killed."
Barb Hulet was among the individuals who invited the widow of LaVoy Finicum and her daughter to address the July 6 gathering. While Hulet and company say they're proud to be sovereign citizens, as defined in the Declaration of Independence, they are not part of any extremist group. They're just American citizens interested in hearing the truth about the shooting of LaVoy Finicum early this year.
Hulet, Rosemary Anderson and Beverly Watts addressed the Delta City Council Aug. 2. They said the use of the term of "sovereign citizens" implies they are "bad" and "dangerous."
They referred to the FBI website, which addresses the domestic terrorism threat of the "sovereign citizen" extremist movement.
"Sovereign citizens are anti-government extremists who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or 'sovereign' from the United States. As a result, they believe they don't have to answer to any government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement," the website states.
"Not every action taken in the name of the sovereign citizen ideology is a crime, but the list of illegal actions committed by these groups, cells, and individuals is extensive (and puts them squarely on our radar)," the website continues.
Because the FBI classifies some sovereign citizen extremists as domestic terrorists, people were "scared to death" to attend the fundraiser, Hulet said.
"The memo puts us squarely on the FBI's radar," Anderson said, using the wording from the website.
"I resent being called a sovereign citizen when the FBI defines me this way," she said. "You labeled us."
Hulet filed an open records request to obtain a copy of Torgler's memo. City clerk Jolene Nelson responded with a redacted version of Torgler's email. Citing the Colorado Criminal Justice Act and the Colorado Open Records Act, Nelson said further disclosure would be contrary to the public interest.