Legal and Political Saga Rocks CC/V School District

Mallet legal code and scales of justice. Law concept studio shots

RE-1 Recall Election Date Still In Limbo

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

The political turmoil surrounding the possible recall of several veteran school board members for the Cripple Creek/Victor RE1 School District has infiltrated the legal arena, with little prospects for an immediate solution.

In the last week alone, the drama escalated with a District Court decision against protests filed against the recall effort; a filing in the Colorado Supreme Court opposing actions by the clerk’s office to order a special election; and a surprising resignation by one of the main targeted school board members, Treasurer Dennis Jones.

And that is just in the last week.

With the latest developments, the exact date of a future election is still in limbo. But unless the court dictates otherwise, a recall vote will occur in late July, according to the Teller clerk’s office. An original date was set for July 16, but that was postponed, with another prospective time set for July 30.

The drama kicked off early last week, as District Court Judge Scott Sells basically supported the actions of the clerk and recorder’s office in calling for a special election and the way they handled the recall situation.

In a three-page decision, Sells stated, “Based upon the record, I find the (Teller County) Clerk and Recorder complied with all statutory requirements and relied upon Secretary of State guidelines and find no violations of the law of any of her (Clerk and Recorder Krystal Brown) actions. I find no breach or neglect of duty or wrongful act has been proven by petitioners (Tim Braun and Dennis Jones).

At issue were claims that the recall group should have withdrawn their original petition, after not submitting enough valid signatures in their first try, and should have refiled their documents entirely during the second go-around. Also, they maintained that the clerk exhibited favoritism in the way she treated members of the recall group compared to the targeted board members.

This dealt with an earlier decision by county attorney Paul Hurcomb (who was acting as the independent hearing officer) that denied the protests of Braun and Jones because they weren’t done under oath. The targeted board leaders stated that they should have been advised of this state requirement when submitting their protest.

The judge, though, disagreed with these claims. “I find no credible evidence that she (Krystal Brown) improperly showed favoritism to the recall committee,” stated Sells.

The judge’s decision followed a lengthy hearing that occurred on June 14.

This decision didn’t surprise too many political observers as protesters of successful recall campaigns in Colorado generally face an uphill challenge.

Case Headed to The Supreme Court?

But at least one high profile, targeted board members isn’t throwing in the towel.

Last week, Braun filed a petition with the Colorado Supreme Court that asks the high court to examine the recall law itself and to make a solid determination, which could have big implications for future efforts to oust elected leaders in Colorado. “If the Teller County District Court ruling is allowed to stand it would void that part of (the specific state law governing recalls) and cause confusion in future recalls that are ruled insufficient,” stated Braun.

Again, he argues that the recall group was handled with kid gloves by clerk officials when their original petition was ruled insufficient. Moreover, he is calling foul play in the way this was handled by clerk officials and in the actions of the recall group. “By not withdrawing the original insufficient petition, we submit that the recall petitions submitted a second insufficient petition to the Teller County clerk to amend the first insufficient petition and that each petition on its own merits was insufficient.”

In essence, Braun’s argument appears to stem on several words listed in the law and is asking the high court for an interpretation of the legislation. During the District Court hearing, Brown testified, according to the judge’s ruling, that she adhered to state standards by not requiring the recall group to withdraw their original petition when they originally fell short of the signature requirement and were permitted a cure period. In this particular case, the additional signatures submitted were just added to the original petition.

The judge noted that the words “shall be withdrawn” aren’t listed in the law, and instead, it says “may be withdrawn.”

But Braun believes the high court must clarify this matter, and that the original intent of the law would require organizers of a failed recall attempt to start over again. If the court makes the proper interpretation, he contends the petition effort should get tossed, or the issue should be taken back to the District Court for a further review.

The timing of this filing could represent a potential roadblock for plans to have the election in July. However, the Supreme Court would have to agree to take on this case, which is a pretty hefty legal mountain to climb for the targeted board members.

If a recall election is ordered, only two seats (those of Braun and Tonya Martin) will be up for grabs, and not three as originally planned. Treasurer Dennis Jones, who was re-elected in 2017, announced his resignation last week. As a result, his seat won’t be part of the recall scenario. His successor will be appointed by the current board members.

The group seeking the ouster of veteran leaders has accused the board officials of violating open meeting laws and many state statutes and district policies, misappropriating money and disrespecting community members.

The targeted board leaders, though, have classified these allegations as outrageous lies, and say the group is just trying to get in charge so they can hire their own friends and family members into key school positions. They also accuse the recall leaders of trying to ruin the reputations of veteran leaders who have done many good things for the community.

The recall campaign didn’t start until earlier this year, but it represents a lengthy feud that has occurred for at least five years.