Thursday BOE Meeting – Getting Sneaky?

Martin Justice on our Facebook link noted this (Hat Tip to Martin!) just a little bit ago.

The Board has added another agenda item to the Special Meeting at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday at the Heritage Grill, 10555 Westmoor Dr., in Westminster with the Mayor and City Council of Westminster.  Below is straight from the BoardDocs site:

2.01 2090 Wright Street Property (EL-7) – to direct the chief operating officer regarding the appellate process.

PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. The School District initiated a quiet title action for property on which a facility for the Rocky Mountain Deaf School could be located.  The School District named the City of Lakewood as a defendant who might claim an ownership interest in the property.  The City disclaimed any interest in the property.  Adjacent landowners and others sought leave to intervene, asserting that the City did own the property and that the property could only be used for parks and open space. 
     
  2. The case proceeded to a trial to the court.  The City and School District agreed that the School District owned the property.  The Intervenors argued that the City owned the property.  The court ruled that while the School District held the record deed for the property, the City owned the property by virtue of a planning document that had been submitted as part of a rezoning request, and that the City could only use the property for parks and open space.  The court’s ruling has implications for other district properties. 
     
  3. The School District filed a notice of appeal to preserve the School District’s ability to seek appellate review of the court’s decision.
     
  4. On March 13, the Board of Education held an executive session on legal advice related to 2090 Wright Street.

We were going to be doing a post tonight on this meeting anyway, but this just added a lot more fat to the fire.

What we were going to post about was the curious thing one of our readers was told when she called up the Heritage Grill to see about public access to this meeting.  After all, it is a normal Special Meeting, and not an Executive Session.

Heritage Grill told her they knew nothing about any public attendance and referred her to the Westminster Mayors’ office.  When she called the Mayors’ office, a Melissa Diaz from the mayor’s office stated that the meeting was not open to the public and that there was really no agenda for the meeting, other than a meet and greet type of opportunity for those involved.

Ms. Diaz then called back about 20 minuets later and amended her statement to say there would be a short 15 minute meeting prior to actual dinner (which apparently includes the Boards of the Adams 12 and Adams 50 School Districts).  But she gave no guidance as to how the public can attend.

Now we learn that this little innocuous ‘meet and greet’ social event will also include discussion on the Districts’ appeal of a long-running lawsuit involving 2090 South Wright Street in Lakewood.  And the public meeting in which the discussion will take place in happens to be 15 miles, 30 minutes north, and two cities north of Lakewood and the people of the very active 2090 Coalition, whom the Board refused to talk to at last week’s Board meeting.

It could be simply poor timing and coincidence, but shouldn’t WNW have a little more public relations sense than that?

We hope that some of our readers will be able to get there and attend this “Public Meeting”.  If you do, please let us know what went on.  Email us at jeffcowatch@gmail.com.

22 thoughts on “Thursday BOE Meeting – Getting Sneaky?

  1. You may or may not be aware that the BOE has not had public discussion about this issue because it is tied up in the court. Laura Boggs tried to start a discussion on the issue last year and was strongly advised by Alan Taggert to not have the discussion because the BOE members are named in the lawsuit. At the very least, I would be shocked if the new majority would discuss any of the facts of the case in public because they too would be at risk and presumably their lawyer (who one imagines also advised them to go ahead with the appeal) has told them to keep mum on the topic so they don’t end up the target of further legal action.

    The long and short of it is that this is a legal issue that needs to be decided in the courts, and that includes through the appeals process. It’s not a matter of public opinion, much less that of a loud but very small group who wants to keep their barren field in Lakewood. Let the courts sort it out.

    As far as the distance–oh my. What a thing–to ask the people of Lakewood to drive north to Westminster! However will they manage? Seriously? I don’t think having a meeting in the north part of Jeffco–at a location which happens to be within the Jefferson County School District boundaries, is a travesty. Maybe it’s because I live minutes away from this location and typically have a 30-minute or more drive to the Education Center or one of the many other areas where the BOE meetings have been held. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve failed to realized that the citizens of Lakewood are apparently more special than the rest–hence their need to sue their own city and the district over a field. I’ve commented previously about the fact that this case could set a legal precedent that might be great for the taxpayers in certain cities but terrible for the school district–and I think it would be a colossal mistake for the district and our 85,000 to not appeal the decision. This is a complicated case that impacts more than the field and a few citizens of Lakewood; it is one that will have major repercussions for ALL Jeffco taxpayers who, it should be noted, were considered owners of that piece of property until recently.

    It may also be worth keeping in mind that the members of the 2090 Coalition don’t have the students’ or district’s best interests at heart. They are concerned about keeping their field empty and nothing more.

    • The point about confidential information and legal tactics is well taken. On the other hand, this is not a trial, but an appeal of a trial court decision. The Board had its’ Executive Session meeting over this topic last Thursday. What we are concerned about is the manner in which the public session is being held. It is added at the last minute to a Special Meeting being held in a restaurant at the north end of the JeffCo district to be followed by a closed-to-the-public event. This is their idea of transparency?

      The reference to the location is not meant as an insult to Westminster, and we apologize if it came out that way. Some of us live in the ‘north hinterlands’ too. What it was referring to is the fact that this discussion is not taking place at a location most people who follow the District know and are familiar with. Instead it is out of the way at a facility that may not be prepared for public attendance.

      We are not in favor of the 2090 Coalition, nor are we advocating that the appeal be dropped. We understand that there are significant issues at stake if the court decision is allowed to stand. We are simply being critical of how WNW is handling it.

      • I am very sorry that we are not in favor of the 2090 Coalition and that we are not advocating for the appeal to be dropped. Supporting the 2090 Coalition and dropping the appeal would save a lot of money which could be used for things such as teachers. There are no “significant issues” at stake if the court decision is allowed to stand.

        • We are neither in favor of it, nor opposed to it. There are good arguments on both sides. We are critical of how it is being handled.

    • Amy, Amy… please go to the Secretary of State’s website and confirm your information before you state something that is so untrue like this as a fact. The hundreds of families who have funded the citizen effort were spending ALL our available cash fighting Jeffco Schools and the City of Lakewood during campaigns. We didn’t have money to contribute to political campaigns. Please also see the other posts on this issue correcting some of the Support Jeffco Kids’ “facts”. You liked our message last week at the board meeting; please feel free to have another conversation with me this week. Jeffco continuing this lawsuit is bad for kids and teachers.

  2. FACT: The property according to the Jefferson County Assessor’s website is actually work $441,400.
    FACT: A lower court ruling, which this case is, does not set a precedent. Only if the case is taken to a higher court (in an appeal) is a precedent set. Thus, if the district proceeds with the appeal and doesn’t win, then and only then would a precedent be set. It is important to note that appeals cases are lost in 80% of the cases!
    Question: If the district is so worried about a precedent being set, just how many schools has the district built on land that they legally do not own?
    Question: Why would the district not want to correct any past illegal actions?

    • Actually, lower court rulings can be used as precedents, they simply do not carry the weight or force of law that higher court rulings do. In that sense, if JeffCo goes ahead with the appeal, they are raising the stakes. Right now, the judges’ ruling only has force for this specific case, although it could be used in other lawsuits as an example of what has been decided before (that’s the precedent part). If the Court of Appeals upholds the lower court decision, then it sets a precedent for not only property within JeffCo, but other similar property elsewhere in the State.

  3. I am a proud teacher, union member and City of Lakewood resident. I am very dismayed to read your misleading statements regarding the 2090 case. Your quote from BoardDocs is propaganda at it’s best. I have sent an email to jeffcowatch@gmail.com with the actual judge’s ruling so you can read for yourself. I strongly suggest you read the entire ruling, including footnotes. Among other things, you will find “the City and the District have historically acknowledged that the land was subject to a title provision that transferred title to the City if a school was not built within eight years of August 1, 1973.”
    In addition, only adjacent neighbors were interveners (there were no “and others”) and the judge most certainly did base her decision on the deed, whether or not the City took the time to properly record it with the county as they should have done. “The Court finds that the District has held recorded title to this property for over 35 years; however, the District’s rights were and are subject to automatic termination pursuant to the terms of the Deed”
    The folks who formed the 2090 coalition and the HBG neighborhood organization did exactly what we as educators tell our students to do. They had a neighborhood issue and banded together, refusing to be bullied by the lies of a big City government.
    And they support paying teachers instead of lawyers.
    If anything “sneaky” was done, it was the filing of the quiet title action in the first place and now the filing of a notice to appeal this decision without a vote in public.

  4. In fairness, it would be typical for a newly elected mayor, such as the mayor of Westminster, to hold a meet-and-greet with the BoEs of the school districts in his city. Westminster is in an interesting position because one city has three different school districts. So that aspect of it strikes me as fairly routine. I have no idea what the 2090 issue could have to do with this. The only connection I can posit (this is totally guesswork) is that our BoE majority members want to discuss avoiding the same thing happening to District property in Westminster while still dropping the appeal for the Lakewood property. Basically, having their cake and eating it, too. For the record, the 2090 Coalition is a bunch of bullies who lied to voters about “open space” and stole $1mil in property on which they were trespassing.

    • Our problem with this meeting is two-fold. First, the idea of any gathering of public officials where the the public is not invited needs to be scrutinized very carefully. Secondly, we are concerned about the last minute addition of a strategically important issue to be discussed where by the very nature of the location, public access will be highly limited and inconvenient.

      We are not taking sides on the 2090 issue, per se. We are familiar with the arguments on both sides, and it is a muddled mess. We are taking sides on how the publics’ business is being handled outside of easy public view.

    • Judge Enquist disagrees with your view of the situation, BentleysMom. She wrote a 36 page opinion stating all the legal reasons that the land belonged to the City of Lakewood and not Jeffco Schools. Did you know there is a first deed that predates the Jeffco deed that the city holds? Both government entities knew they had this deed in their files, and in fact Jeffco Schools never held title insurance to this property ever and was unable to obtain it in 2011 for this exact reason. Would you say you own a piece of property that you can’t obtain title insurance to? Would the bank say that you owned a piece of land that you can’t get title insurance to? I’d think not. Jeffco Schools has deluded themselves over the past 35 years. I’d also like to know if you and your neighbors would contribute $250K out of their own pockets over 2.5 years to fight something that they knew they were wrong on? The answer is no. You only contribute $10, $20, $50, or $100, routinely to a cause you know you are RIGHT about. The judge saw that. If Jeffco Schools goes forward with this appeal, they have a less than 20% chance of winning it, and it will cost the taxpayers another $50,000-$100,000 over and above the $243,000 they spent already. When do you finally call this a bad call of Jeffco kids in the first place and quit? Oh, and the property is only valued at a little under $500,000 – the appraisal Support Jeffco Kids quotes is inappropriate as the land could only ever be used as a school or open space, depending on the owner, never for single family homes. The State Department of Education and State Attorney General’s Office would not let Jeffco Schools use the higher appraisal as it was incorrectly skewed to a use not allowed on the property. Your bank wouldn’t allow you to pay more for your house than what it is valued at. It’s the same situation. I hope you get facts straight in the future and stop calling people bullies and trespassers when you don’t have all the facts.

      • Trespassing is a very real accusation and no one takes lightly. The City of Lakewood had “City of Lakewood Open Space” signs on that property since 1982 – we have photographic evidence of this that was presented in court. It’s difficult to say one is trespassing on Jeffco property when there are signs that state it is City of Lakewood Open Space.

  5. After doing some digging, have it on very good authority that the meeting with the Westminster Mayor and the other BoEs of the other Districts is a long scheduled “meet-and-greet” which is very run of the mill. The Special Session the JeffCo BoE is holding before hand does not involve the City of Westminster, and it appears that they decided to hold that Special Session at this time and place because they would already be at Heritage Grill, so they are holding their meeting before their scheduled dinner. This makes it difficult for the public to attend this Special Session, but it does not include City of Westminster officials.

    • Thank you for the clarification. We suspected that the ‘meet and greet’ is ordinary, but the decision to hold the “Special Meeting” and then schedule a very hot topic for discussion at a location with limited public access is what concerns us the most.

  6. HeatherW and Karen Saltzman have presented very logical and
    well researched answers to the claims made earlier…thank you
    both!
    Anyone who studies this issue as I have for the past 26 months
    knows that the School District Board knew back in 2011 that
    they did NOT hold clear title to 2090 S. Wright St.
    They assumed that the neighbors would roll over and give up
    without fighting for what was right and just. But the neighbors
    united and held the moral high ground throughout the horrible
    treatment they received from BOTH the School District and the
    City of Lakewood!!!
    The Deaf School is being built on far better property at S. Kipling
    and W. Quincy on property that should have been used in the first
    place. Blame should be placed where it belongs: With Superintendent Stevinson, Leslie Dahlkemper and Mayor Murphy!
    The new school board is doing what is correct and logical…stopping the mad land grab.

    • We have not taken a position one way or the other. We are simply very concerned that WNW has ignored the advice of legal counsel, its’ primary asset advisory group (CAAC), and then scheduled the public discussion at the last minute in a small, out of the way venue. Regardless of the side you are on, we think everyone can agree that this is not the way to run a major school district.

      • jsbw You may think everyone agrees with you, but that does not make it so. The way to run a district is with integrity and truth. That is just what the board did yesterday. Face it Caplan and Ernst failed because the facts didn’t support the District’s case. Were you in court? Have you read the ruling? Did you read thousands of emails and documents related to the case?

        • We agree that the way to run a District is with integrity and truth, which is not what we are finding with WNW.

          Integrity means open processes, open discussion, and open conclusions with all view points included. It also means being able and willing to come to a conclusion that you personally do not like. WNW, rather than demonstrating these characteristics, have shown just the opposite. The decision that was made yesterday was not done with integrity. When pushed, WNW could only come up with, ‘it has gone on too long.’ That is not a logical, nor sound reason. At the very least, it is capricious.

          As we have stated elsewhere, appeals are almost never about the facts of a case. The Appellate process requires the Appellant to argue that the lower court made an error in either procedure or judgment about those facts to the extent that it then rendered an incorrect decision. Therefore, the facts as presented in the District court are not the issue. It is the process by which the judge reviewed and interpreted the facts and the case law that would be challenged.

          The statement above is not about being in favor of or opposed to the 2090 court ruling. It is simply how the American Appellate process works.

          But, as we have said elsewhere, we have not taken a position one way or the other.

          We do understand that emotions are running very high on this issue. That both sides feel that they are ‘right’ and the other side is ‘wrong’. We have actually had adherents of both views convinced that we were opposed to them. We suppose that is what you get for trying to be in the middle. 🙂

          Our concern is basically simple: WNW has ignored the advice of legal counsel, its’ primary asset advisory group (CAAC), and then scheduled the public discussion at the last minute in a small, out of the way venue. To use your own terms, that is not acting with integrity nor with a respect for the truth. Regardless of the side you are on, we think everyone can agree that this is not the way to run a major school district.

    • Blaming Mayor Murphy for the fact that the City didn’t file a claim in the 80s??? How, exactly, would that be his fault?

  7. BentleyMom,
    Mayor Bob Murphy had NOTHING to do with the 1980’s mistakes
    made the City of Lakewood concerning 2090 S. Wright St.
    However, he had very much to do with the way the property was
    handled in the current decade. He had the chance to fight for
    the title to the property, but instead decided to give it away.
    All without telling the public about the Deed that the City held in
    it’s files since 1977.
    The Citizens did all the research and proved the City’s ownership
    without aid from the City or the School District. Mayor Murphy
    fought them all the way till the Court Order was handed down.
    His friends Cindy Stevenson & Leslie Dahlkemper assisted on their end in the School District to try to overcome the actual
    legal ownership with carefully orchestrated tactics designed to
    make the concerned neighbors appear to the “evil education hating bullies”. And they spent HUGE amounts of money to do it.
    These 3 individuals were the true bullies and the neighbors were
    the true victims in this situation!
    The new School Board members are the only officials in the whole story with enough integrity to put a stop to the lying, cheating and attempted theft of Lakewood City property.
    The fact that the vote was taken at the Heritage Grill is irrelevant!

    • As we have said elsewhere, we have not taken a position on this issue one way or the other.

      Our contention is that WNW used a flawed process to arrive at their decision. We also take issue with you on your pronouncement that WNW acted with integrity.

      Integrity means open processes, open discussion, and open conclusions with all view points included. It also means being able and willing to come to a conclusion that you personally do not like. WNW, rather than demonstrating these characteristics, have shown just the opposite. The decision that was made Thursday was not done with integrity. When pushed, WNW could only come up with, ‘it has gone on too long.’ That is not a logical, nor sound reason. At the very least, it is capricious.

      In short, they did not justify their position, they did not explain the rationale used, they did not assuage fear about the consequences. At best, they went on their ‘gut’ feeling.

      Is this how you want a billion dollar public enterprise run? By ‘gut’ feeling? What other programs, choices, decisions, and events will be decided by ‘gut’ feelings instead of hard-headed thought, logic, and careful weighing of the pros and cons?

      We understand that WNWs decision itself is one that pleased you and we do not blame you for being pleased by it anymore than we blame opponents of this decision for being upset with it. But being pleased with a decision should not mean giving carte-blanch to the decision maker in their reasoning and process of arriving at the decision. How would you have felt if the decision went against you and WNW had said the process had ‘not gone on long enough’? You would most likely be furious and accuse them of not really having a reason for continuing. That is exactly our bone of contention with them. They did not really cite a valid reason for them stopping.

      We are not saying that the decision itself was wrong, we are saying that they have not shown us the integrity of openly and rationally explaining their decision, hence it appears capricious, unthinking, and ill-advised. That is the core of our problem with WNW.

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