The question of whether Douglas County school board members broke Colorado Open Meetings Law will not be decided by a jury, but rather the judge who intially ruled that a series of one-on-one …
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The question of whether Douglas County school board members broke Colorado Open Meetings Law will not be decided by a jury, but rather by the judge who initially ruled that a series of one-on-one meetings about public business is illegal.
On May 30, Douglas County District Court Judge Jeffrey Holmes ruled the school board doesn’t have a right to a jury trial to decide whether board members Becky Myers, President Mike Peterson, Christy Williams, and Kaylee Winegar violated open meetings laws by having a chain of conversations about firing former superintendent Corey Wise.
Myers, Peterson, Williams, and Winegar were sued in February 2022 by Rep. Bob Marshall, D-Highlands Ranch, after firing Wise without cause. In March 2022, Holmes preliminarily ruled the board members’ actions broke open meeting law requirements to discuss public business in public meetings.
In Holmes’ May order rejecting a jury trial, he says the school board members don’t have a right to a jury trial because Marshall is not seeking damages in the case, just a declaratory injunction that would include a statement of guilt from the school board members and a ruling to prevent such actions in the future.
Earlier this month, Myers, Peterson, Williams, and Winegar rejected a settlement in the case that would have included provisions stating the board members broke the law and an injunction to prevent a series of conversations outside of the public view, and the payment of Marshall’s $66,000 in legal fees.
The four board members turned down the settlement, citing objections to the provision that they admit they broke the law.
Additionally, Holmes said in his May order rejecting a jury trial that the board’s attorneys did not pay the fee for a jury trial by the statutory deadline, which waives the right to a jury trial.
According to records requested by Colorado Community Media, Douglas County School District has paid around $152,000 for legal representation from Hall and Evans and Gessler Blue from March 11, 2022, to April 6, 2023.
The school board also settled with Wise, who filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Department, claiming his termination was retaliatory and discriminatory because of his support for the district’s equity and masking policies.
In that settlement, Wise received $832,733. The district paid $270,733 to end his contract without cause and $150,000 in an insurance deductible for legal representation.
The trial is scheduled for June 12-14.
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