Craig officials react to arrest of Councilman Brian MacKenzie
Editor’s note: This report has been updated to include comments from Councilman Steve Mazzuca.
The city of Craig issued its first statement Wednesday after the recent arrest of Councilman Brian MacKenzie on three child sex-related felonies.
Councilors who were elected in April along with MacKenzie also came forward Wednesday with their reactions to the arrest.
According to an arrest affidavit filed by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Brian Paul MacKenzie was arrested on felony charges of internet luring of a child, internet sexual exploitation of a child, and criminal attempt — sexual assault on a child.
The arrest affidavit said MacKenzie was caught in the snare of an undercover sting operation Oct. 11 wherein a Jefferson County Sheriff’s investigator near Denver was posing as an underage girl.
“I was portraying myself in an undercover capacity on a social media site as an underage female named Kylie,” police said in the affidavit.
Once police established a line of communication with MacKenzie, they said he began talking inappropriately with Kylie, who told MacKenzie she was 14, almost 15 years old.
Police said MacKenzie soon began asking for pictures of Kylie’s private parts and described in graphic detail several sex acts he planned to perform on the 14-year-old and wanted the 14-year-old to perform on him.
After he was taken into custody upon arriving at the imaginary Kylie’s home, the affidavit said Mackenzie told police he did not think he was speaking with a 14-year-old.
“He then said he was coming to tell the girl she should not be talking to people online,” the affidavit said. “Brian again said he did not think she was 14, was not going to have sex with her, and knew it was a setup.”
In an email Tuesday, MacKenzie said he was innocent.
“Obviously, I maintain my innocence of these charges and will stand and fight,” MacKenzie said.
In a statement Wednesday, Craig’s City Manager Peter Brixius said City Attorney Sherman Romney spoke with MacKenzie on Tuesday about his plans after being arrested.
“Mr. Romney was able to speak with Mr. Mackenzie for the first time late yesterday (Tuesday, Oct. 15) which was sometime after he was released from jail on a personal recognizance bond,” Brixius said. “Mr. MacKenzie stated that he intended to resign his position in a letter that same day as he did not want his situation to taint the city of Craig any more than it already has. Mr. Mackenzie’s letter of resignation is still pending receipt, but the city council will likely be moving forward Tuesday night of next week to discuss steps to fill Mr. MacKenzie’s seat on the council based on his stated intent to resign.”
Brixius said Craig City Council first learned of MacKenzie’s arrest on Saturday, Oct. 12.
“The City Council was first alerted to the arrest of Mr. Mackenzie on Saturday by City Attorney Romney and frankly were shocked at the news and especially the subject and conditions of the arrest,” Brixius said. “From the first knowledge of this news, Mayor Ogden has been adamant that the city do everything possible to contact Mr. Mackenzie and the arresting authorities, and if necessary determine when the city would be receiving confirmation of Mr. Mackenzie’s intention to vacate his position on the council. The mayor and city council applaud the efforts of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office as they work to crack down on child predators in the communities they serve.”
Having worked for the Moffat County School District’s maintenance department for years, Mayor Ogden watched first-hand the justice system’s failure to find guilt in the Justin Folley case and a subsequent state law afterward that made it a felony to send sexually explicit electronic messages to underage persons.
In a statement Wednesday, Ogden expressed his profound discontent with one of their own being arrested on such charges.
“Child exploitation issues has reared its ugly head a couple of times in our community over the past year and frankly has been reported in a number of communities in Colorado and across the U.S.,” Ogden said in a statement. “We as a community are unfortunately not immune from the insidious nature of these types of activities, but it is especially unsettling when it involves someone in a position of trust. It is profoundly upsetting to me and the city council that one of our own is involved in an activity surrounding child exploitation. Given the circumstances however, the city council will always be vigilant in rooting out this perversion from our community regardless of status or position.”
In an interview Wednesday, Councilman Paul James, who along with Mayor Ogden has been seated next to MacKenzie each week on council, reacted to the news of MacKenzie’s arrest.
“I’m disgusted,” James said.
James said he expects MacKenzie to resign.
“I would like to see him resign,” James said Wednesday. “If not, I think we could probably get him out for incompetence. I think there’s a clause in the charter that could potentially allow that.”
If MacKenzie does not resign, James said he hopes to be the first to collect enough signatures to initiate a recall.
“I have no problem doing that,” James said.
In a statement via text late Wednesday, Councilman Steve Mazzuca said he hopes MacKenzie’s alleged crimes don’t jeopardize the ongoing work of Craig City Council.
“While I am disheartened and upset at the disturbing actions and allegations of Brian MacKenzie, I don’t want us as a community to lose sight of the good work that the city council has done, and continues to do, this year,” Mazzuca said. “The appropriate actions have been taken by our city attorney, city manager, and mayor to get a resignation from Brian.”
If MacKenzie does resign, Craig City Council has two months to determine who will replace him.
“The city council has 60 days in which to fill the vacancy by appointment of a person to fill the remainder of the term for the council seat,” Brixius said in Wednesday’s statement. “The council will decide on Tuesday night in the city council meeting whether to accept nominations from council members or whether to advertise for interested parties as possible candidates to fill the position. Ultimately the council will make the appointment by a vote of the city council. The person appointed could run for reelection by the voters at the conclusion of the term.”
Having just been elected to council in April, MacKenzie’s term is set to expire in 2023.