Laurett Barrentine has a long history of attempting to trick Englewood voters by setting up rigged debates. In a real debate, in order to guarantee a level playing field for everyone, all parties agree in advance on the time, place, format, and moderator. In Barrentine’s rigged debates, here’s the pattern:
- Barrentine chooses a time and place, invites a moderator (typically one of her friends), and even makes the fliers.
- She will then have someone invite the participants to the debates. Her favored candidates will know the invitation is coming, but no one else does. About the same time (without waiting for a response from the other participants), her people will publicly announce the debate, claiming that all the invited participants will be there.
- She then has some of her people distribute fliers announcing the event and claiming that the participants will be there. These are not distributed throughout the relevant district, but just to the houses in close proximity to the participants’ homes. The goal is to create the illusion that everyone knows they will be coming to the debate—-whether or not they have agreed.
- This puts the participants in a bind. If they are not her favored candidate, they will face a rigged debate where the format and moderator are already stacked against them. If they reject the invitation, they will be accused of refusing to publicly debate. The goal, of course, is to convince the voters that her favored candidate is the best choice by rigging the debate from the start.
This little trick worked pretty well for a few years, but last year the whole thing began to unravel. In October, Barrentine planned a debate and designed the flier using her organization “Englewood Citizens for an Open Government” (Barrentine’s home address was identified in documents as the address for ECOG) and directed her friend (and front person for ECOG) Belinda Porter to distribute the fliers. The problem came when all three at-large candidates declined the invitation.
Instead, they all attended a fair, even-handed debate hosted by another organization. ECOG tried the same trick again in the 2018 special election for district 1. Two of the three candidates refused to attend the rigged debate (although of course Barrentine’s favored candidate was happy to attend). Once again, another group hosted a real debate with all three candidates in attendance.
When the rigged debate trick failed for a second time in a row, it was apparent that ECOG had lost all credibility. But suddenly a new organization appeared—Englewood Citizens for City Transparency—again fronted by Barrentine’s cronies. With the recall coming up, the new organization ran exactly the same play, planning a rigged debate moderated by one of Barrentine’s friends.