New Jeffco School Board Members Already Breaking Law, Spending Money

UPDATE: There may be much more to this story than originally thought. Check out this information from Examiner.com:

Although Witt did not provide the board or the public with information about the terms of compensation, the Loveland Reporter-Herald states that Thompson School Board is currently considering a contract with Miller’s firm, Miller Sparks LLC, to represent their school board at hourly rates of $225 and $205, respectively.

The Reporter-Herald also stated that on Wednesday, Dec. 11, Thompson School Board President Bob Kerrigan told his school board that Miller Sparks was the “Colorado Springs-based law firm that currently represents Jefferson County schools.”

Kerrigan’s comment raises additional questions, because Jeffco’s contract with Miller was not approved until 24 hours later at Jeffco’s regular school board meeting on Thursday and key details of that contract are still not available to the public. [Pols emphasis]

That last sentence is a doozy. It seems that members of the Thompson School Board knew about a new attorney in Jefferson County before some members of Jeffco's school board (let alone the public).

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The three new members of the Jefferson County School Board were sworn-in just three weeks ago, but they've already managed to break the law.

Republicans Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams were elected in November and gained majority control of the school board when they were inaugurated on Nov. 21. The pro-charter school, anti-tax conservative slate has been quiet about their intentions since Election Day, refusing to comment in a Denver Post story published one day before their swearing-in ceremony, but all three were supported by Alex Cranberg-funded pro-voucher groups — the type that have advocated for recent "reforms" similar to those that have plagued Douglas County Schools in recent years.

At last night's Jeffco School Board meeting, Witt, Newkirk, and Williams surprised fellow board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman by announcing that they had extended an offer to Colorado Springs-based attorney and charter-school advocate Brad Miller to represent the board on legal matters — even though the district already has a chief legal counsel (Allen Taggert is retiring at the end of the month, but the school district already had a transition plan in place for a new attorney). Witt told the board that it was important to have Miller in place before Saturday's Board Retreat, though he did not provide information about the cost or other specifics regarding Miller's offer. Witt, Newkirk, and Williams shrugged off questions about why there was such a rush to spend taxpayer funds on another attorney for the school district, and pushed the matter through by a vote of 3-2.

If you didn't already catch the legal violation in the last paragraph, here's the problem: under Colorado's "Sunshine Laws," elected officials cannot hold secret meetings or discussions of the type that led to a contract offer for Miller. Witt, Newkirk, and Williams offered Miller a contract BEFORE informing the rest of the board and voting on the matter. Whatever your political affiliations, the law is pretty clear that you can't do this sort of thing — though Miller was apparently unconcerned since he was in attendance at the board meeting last night. The whole point of Colorado's open government laws are to prevent elected officials from holding discussions or conversations that are not accessible to the public. Witt and friends don't have much of a defense here given that they extended an offer to Miller sometime before last night's board meeting; they didn't just talk to Miller, they made a decision, in secret, unbeknownst even to other board members.

If you are so inclined, the board meeting can be viewed on YouTube. We'll update on whatever happens this weekend at the board retreat, which Witt signaled was the impetus for rushing Miller's "contract" through the board. Perhaps the new board members will have more "decisions" to announce to Dahlkemper and Fellman.

15 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Progressicat says:

    Funny…something very similar happened up in Loveland: http://www.reporterherald.com/news/education/ci_24715233/thompson-school-districts-board-consider-contract-separate-legal

    Well, I suppose the TEA Party folks may all be plugged in via some Borg consciousness.  Of course Occam's Razor would suggest that they're all colluding.

    • Meiner49erMeiner49er says:

      Thanks for noting that!  POLS, pay more attention to what's happening statewide, not just in Denver!  The money thrown at these school board races in DouglassCo, JeffCo, and LarimerCo suggest a major initiative by Republicans in swing counties to break what they see as the political power of teacher's unions as a first step in flipping those counties back to Red.  This ain't about schools (though the schools WILL be sold off to for profit corps that will then donate the money they rake in to Republican candidates)!  It's bigger and has statewide implications.

      • dwyer says:

        Very perceptive, Meiner49.  Three big wins in school board races for the tea party, plus two successful recalls and one senate resignation spells out a beauty of a strategy, …but the dems are slow to wake up…..and I think it is because there is so much power in the democratic party from the REALLY Big money…..that local party organizations have been weakened to the point of inertia. Somehow, the Democrats are now "top down" and the Republicans are "grass roots".

        • Meiner49erMeiner49er says:

          Boy, would sure love to see some of that "really big money" deployed in THIS fight.  We've got chicken scratchings up here, at best, even though half the Gang of Four lives in the county!

        • Hawkeye-X says:

          The Republicans dreams for a 2014 victory has already gone down the shitter.

          I expect a sustained Senate on both local and national stage (strengthened on the local side, remain the same on the national side) for the Democrats. TEA party assholes will be thrown out by disgruntled voters who tire of their bullshit.

          Trust me. I'm already seeing some changes in Kentucky, and it's all good for the Democratic side. Grimes will defeat the Teabagger who will defeat the Turtle.

          Many Americans are tired of Republicans who lies and bullshit their way. The default and the hostage holding of the CR was a major major shift against the Republicans and will give way to Democrats retaking the House nationally and strengthening it locally by removing retards who are wholly unqualified to exist..

           

    • Craig says:

      I am really fond of the Borg analogy.  I think it is very apt to the way the "Republican" party of today works.  All pretty faces and nice hair, no brain underneath.

  2. Miss Jane says:

    Ah, school board politics, such a basic form of democracy…until it all hits the courts.

  3. Hawkeye-X says:

    Indictments for those three assholes, all assets forfeited and ordered to resign and replaced with Democratic board members.

     

  4. Good catch on the timing between the two board meetings.

    Unfortunately, I don't know if violating the open meetings laws would be grounds for criminal prosecution; as they have a clear majority and are apparently acting in unison, the contract with Miller's law firm would also probably stand up.

    And they can't be recalled for 6 months. Welcome to this week's episode of "corrupt people can get away with shit".

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