11/18 (late) – Evergreen “AFP” Fallout – JeffCo Officials Still Scrambling

United_States_Fallout_Shelter_SignA ‘Copy Error’. 

That, according to the Evergreen Tea Party’s Ed Sutton, is how their flyer advertising an “Education Night” with Jeffco Board members, Superintendent, and several Jeffco Principals, came show that one of the sponsors of the event was the ‘American Freedom Party’, a white supremacist hate group and fringe political party.

The “AFP” they were supposed to list is the Koch brothers creation, Americans For Prosperity.

In our post yesterday, 11/17 WNW, Due Diligence, & Racism, we explored the possibility that it was a mistake.  That someone was told that “AFP” was a sponsor and instead of typing in ‘Americans For Prosperity‘, typed in ‘American Freedom Party‘.

Which, as we pointed out in that post,

…still leaves unanswered the question:

Didn’t McMinimee, Newkirk, Williams, Witt, and the rest at least check the list of sponsors on the flyer and website?  

It also raises another question:

How did someone working for the Evergreen group confuse Americans For Prosperity with American Freedom Party?

If that person saw “AFP” and did not know what it meant, how did they end up with American Freedom Party?  And why didn’t someone else catch it?

If they did catch it, then why was nothing said about it (such as an apology) at the beginning of the event?

Those questions are still unanswered.

Even the Facebook Message we received from Melissa Reeves-Graybill, a  “News Media Specialist” at the District, did not answer the above questions.

Her FB message purports that a revised flyer was passed out at the meeting…but none of the people in attendance who have contacted us remember a flyer being handed out.  Certainly, as of that evening (and as right now, Nov 18, 2014 10:15 p.m.) the same ‘flawed’ flyer was (and is) posted on the My Mountain Town calendar.

(TPurported Revised Flyerhe purported ‘revised’ flyer is to the right.  A copy of her email can be found here:  JeffCoDistrictEmail2014-11-18fromMelissaReeves-GraybillNote:  Since Ms. Reeves-Graybill’s contact with us came through Facebook’s messaging system, all we have is her Facebook page as verification that she is in fact who she says she is.  We have asked her to resend her message to our email address from her JeffCo email account so we can verify that she does work for the District, but to this point, 11/18 10:15 p.m., she has not done so.)

One email response that Ms. Johnson and Ms. Gurdikian have received is from John Newkirk.  Ms. Johnson and Ms. Gurdikian sent us (among others) a copy of John Newkirk’s email plus their response late this afternoon.  Below is the text from Mr. Newkirk’s email:

Subject: Re: Regarding Your Association with the American Freedom Party
Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2014 03:53:48 +0000

Dear Ms. Gurdikian and Ms. Johnson:

Thank you for your inquiry.  It is our understanding that the organizer of the event in question sent a correction notice and revised announcement to interested parties prior to the meeting.  After reading your email, I requested a copy of these documents from the event’s organizer, Mr. Ed Sutton, and assembled them into a PDF file at 9:17 this morning.  They are attached to this email.

The Board of Education is aware of its obligation to be fully transparent and truthful in connection with matters such as you raise in your communication.  To that end, please confirm that you were not aware of the correction notice sent out by the event’s organizer prior to the meeting.  We raise this question since your lengthy description (found at http://jeffcoschoolboardwatch.org/?p=2987) indicates that you may in fact have been aware of the corrected meeting notification but chose not to mention this in your correspondence to the Board.  In the event that you were not aware, please be assured that all Board members and administrators who participated in the event were fully aware that its sponsors were legitimate and responsible members of our community.

In the interest of accuracy and integrity, we hereby request that the website and other communications related to the question of this meeting be corrected accordingly with a note clarifying that the sponsor in question was “Americans For Prosperity” and not the “American Freedom Party” as alleged.

With regard to your particular questions, the fact is that only one Board member attended the event.  No attendee or speaker related to the District had reason to believe that the event was sponsored by any group connected to racist or otherwise illegal activities, nor was it the case that such connections existed.

Thank you again for your inquiry.

Respectfully,

John J. Newkirk, Secretary

Jefferson County Board of Education
jnewkirk@jeffco.k12.co.us

Ms. Johnson & Ms. Gurdikian’s response is below, but we, Jeffco School Board Watch, would first like to offer the following comments on Mr. Newkirk’s email.

A) While Mr. Newkirk’s first paragraph states that a correction had been sent out, please note that he did not already have that correction.  In fact, Mr. Newkirk stated that he had to request it today (Nov 18th) from Ed Sutton, the head of the Evergreen Tea Party.

Based on this, at the time Mr. Newkirk, Mr. McMinimee, the Jeffco Principals, and Mr. Shuler, founder of Golden View Classical Academy, showed up at the event, they had not been notified that an error had occurred.

Therefore, there are really only three possibilities.  Either they had decided to attend without ever looking at the promotional material; they did look but did not check on the name of a unfamiliar group; or they had no problem attending an event that listed the American Freedom Party as a sponsor.  The first two possibilities suggest carelessness and a lack of due diligence.  The last possibility suggests far darker implications.

Being optimists, we hope that it is one of the first two.  Mr. Newkirk and Mr. McMinimee?  Care to answer that?

Mr. Newkirk’s second paragraph offers a host of topics that deserve comment

B) In the first sentence, Mr. Newkirk says the Board is aware that it has an “…obligation to be fully transparent and truthful….”  But then in the second sentence, he says that the Board’s obligation somehow means Ms. Johnson, Ms. Gurdikian, and Jeffco School Board Watch have to confirm something?  How does the Board’s obligation for honesty and transparency get transferred to someone else?  This, in our opinion, is a non-sequitur argument.

C) Mr. Newkirk then goes on to reference our post 11/17 WNW, Due Diligence, & Racism, but somehow twists it into JeffCo School Board Watch being aware of a corrected flyer?  We are not sure how he arrives at that.  We stated in our post (click on the link in this paragraph) that we thought the listing of the American Freedom Party might be in error.  We also stated the reasons why we thought that might be the case, specifically:

Another possible explanation is that maybe it is simply a mistake.  People who were there say that all the sponsors had posters up indicating their sponsorship. There was no American Freedom Party poster…but there was an Americans For Prosperity poster.  The original flyer does not show American For Prosperity, but they had a poster.  The flyer does shows American Freedom Party, but they did not have a poster.  They both, apparently, go by the initials of “AFP”, so…a simple mistake?

Okay.  That is possible.”

<emphasis added>

That is why we considered the possibility of mistake.  But to be sure, after we received the copy of Mr. Newkirk’s email, we double-checked with our sources who were at the meeting.  None of them received or saw any flyers at the meeting, original or revised.  If such flyers were handed out, it was to a limited number of people and done so in a very unobtrusive fashion.  Which bring us to…

D) Mr. Newkirk assures Ms. Johnson and Ms. Gurdikian that “all Board members and administrators who participated in the event were fully aware that its sponsors were legitimate“.  To which we ask:

How?

The responses Ms. Johnson and Ms. Gurdikian received from the principals of D’Evelyn and Evergreen high schools indicate something quite different.  D’Evelyn Principal Mr. Edwards states that his secretary “informed whoever contacted the school” that he could not attend.  Evergreen Principal Mr. Alsup wrote that he had received a telephone invitation and that, “I never received anything in writing, in fact I was not aware of the flier until after I attended the event.

Further, by Mr. Newkirk’s own admission, the corrected flyer was not received by him until today (Nov 18th) more than a  week after the event!

So we repeat our question:

How were all the Board members and JeffCo personnel (including Mr. McMinimee) fully aware of who was really sponsoring the event?

E) Mr. Newkirk in the third paragraph seems to be laboring under the belief that Ms. Johnson and Ms. Gurdikian are either members of Jeffco School Board Watch, or have control over it, despite the fact that they have made no such claim.  Mr. Newkirk should have made his request direct to us, as Ms. Reeves-Graybill did.  We invite Mr. Newkirk to directly email us at jeffcowatch@gmail.com with any concerns he has about our posts.

But before he does so, we would encourage him to fully and carefully read what we post.  If he had, he would have realized that we already brought up the possibility that the listing was a mistake.  Of course, if he concedes that, then he is also left with the questions we asked after that, to which there is still no response:

Didn’t McMinimee, Newkirk, Williams, Witt, and the rest at least check the list of sponsors on the flyer and website?  

How did someone working for the Evergreen group confuse Americans For Prosperity with American Freedom Party?

If that person saw “AFP” and did not know what it meant, how did they end up with American Freedom Party?  And why didn’t someone else catch it?

If they did catch it, then why was nothing said about it (such as an apology) at the beginning of the event?

Since Mr. Newkirk states that the Board (and by implication, he personally) has an “obligation to be fully transparent and truthful….” we ask him once again, did he receive and review the original flyer, including it’s list of sponsors?

Finally, to Mr. Newkirk’s last paragraph.  He has avoided the question about all three of ‘WNW’ having been invited and advertised as speaking at the event.  It seems he would prefer that everyone forget about the potential violation the Colorado Sunshine law that such a gathering could have entailed.

To us, in his last sentence, Mr. Newkirk is seemingly trying to avoid the positive responsibility given to him by Board Governance Process GP-08, Board Covenants, item #18:

Make every reasonable effort to protect the integrity and promote the positive image of the district…

To us, verifying all the sponsors and reviewing the advertising of an event at which Jeffco Board members and employees are the main attraction would seem to be a “reasonable effort”.

Perhaps now, after all the fall-out from this faux pax, Mr. Newkirk will think so to.

Below is Ms. Johnson and Ms. Gurdikian’s response to Mr. Newkirk’s email:

Mr. Newkirk, your anger and accusatory tone are extremely unsettling.

Thus far, every other email conversation we have had with those who received our original letter has been civil and professional. Your tone has no place here. 

To your points, we take issue with your unfounded allegation that we are Jefferson County School Board Watch (JCSBW).  We are NOT JCSBW and we did not write or help write their post.  If you have a request for changes to be made to JCSBW’s blog post, we suggest you take that up with them.  We note that past allegations linking other individuals to JCSBW have been unfounded, as is this one.  Mr. Newkirk – it truly is unprofessional for you to make this unfounded allegation.  We are not making any unfounded allegations in our email – the fact remains that ETP material listed the American Freedom Party as a co-sponsor of an event where you and other district personnel attended, presented, and represented our school district.  Surely you can see why this would be alarming – especially given the total lack of evidence that a retraction was distributed.  In fact, we held off in sending this response to you in expectation of receiving a response from the ETP to our email yesterday, but we have not heard from Mr. Sutton or anyone else of the ETP yet.  Again, we are perplexed at the anger in your email – if your anger should be directed at anyone, it should be the Evergreen Tea Party as they are the ones who were careless, and THEY are the ones who have placed you in this predicament – not us.

And we do not appreciate your your allegation that we knew of the retraction – we most certainly did not – how could we?  Even given the supposed retraction you and Mr. McMinimee provided, we still have not been able to find any independent evidence of it.  Forming the responses into a .pdf at 9:17am yesterday is not the same as providing the original document. Someone must have emailed that back around November 10.  A “reformulation” of documents provides no evidence.  We want to see the original communication of the correction. We look forward to Mr. Sutton’s response to our email sent yesterday.  Surely if such a retraction did go out, there would be email evidence of it. 

Speaking of which, it would seem reasonable to expect that speakers would also have been notified of the retraction. Did you – or any others on this email – receive an email from Mr. Sutton or the ETP that you could forward to us?  We’re thinking that if you didn’t receive notice of the retraction, why then would you have agreed to speak that night knowing the American Freedom Party was listed very publicly as a co-sponsor?  If the retraction did indeed go out, why did the meeting organizers STILL list the American Freedom Party as a co-sponsor when they posted video from the meeting on YouTube on November 12?  My Mountain Town still lists the American Freedom Party as a co-sponsor of the event (see attached screenshot):

11.10.2014ETPEducationnighteventflyer

Note: The referenced screen shot did not show up in our copy. Due to the lateness of the hour, we have gone and downloaded the current image on the website. This is that image.

Clearly someone is not doing their due diligence to correct this mistake, leaving the public, including Kelly and me, to conclude that this mistake must not be of much concern to the Evergreen Tea Party or they would have ensured this correction was carried through appropriately and thoroughly.  And, we find it highly improbably that someone would accidentally type American Freedom Party when they meant to type Americans for Prosperity.  Nobody that we’ve talked to about the American Freedom Party had even heard of the group before this unfortunate incident.  It’s just not a plausible excuse.

Still, we maintain that the Evergreen Tea Party should easily be able to put this issue to rest by sending the email with the retraction that went out to co-sponsors and the media – and an apology to the principals whose names were used without their permission.  I’m not sure why you chose not to address this issue in your email as we feel this is a blatant overstep by the ETP that needs to be addressed.  As that question was in a separate email we sent to Mr. McMinimee after we started receiving feedback from principals, we’ll grant that maybe that response is forthcoming.  However, for the sake of consolidating responses, we reiterate our concerns here:

  1. Mr. Newkirk – you did not answer our question as to why you participated in this event.  Could you share that with us?
  2. If you did not receive the retraction from the ETP, why did you agree to speak at this event when the American Freedom Party was publicly listed as a co-sponsor?
  3. The ETP did not have permission to use Mr. Edwards’ name, and Mr. Aslup’s name was used in promotional materials before he even knew he was speaking.  Who gave Mr. Sutton permission to use their names?
    • D’Evelyn Principal Edwards noted, “I do not know why my name was affiliated with the event.  Possibly because we have some students enrolled here that travel from that area of the district, so perhaps they thought I would like to communicate the positive work we do at our school each day.  My secretary informed whoever contacted the school that I was not able to attend.”  
    • Evergreen Principal Alsup shared, “Personally, I received a phone message from a Ed Sutton of the Evergreen Tea Party inviting me to listen to presentations from Dan McMinimee and a few board members. I never received anything in writing, in fact I was not aware of the flier until after I attended the event. Shortly before I arrived at the event, I received a phone message stating that plans had changed and I would have a few minutes to talk about Evergreen High School.”  
  4. During the election, we saw three candidates illegally use the Jeffco Schools logo to further their own campaigns and spread misinformation about Jeffco Schools. We believe this is yet another example of an unfortunate co-branding – accidental or not.  Jeffco Schools needs to be very careful about how they allow the Jeffco Schools brand to appear.  Is someone responsible for vetting speaking engagements to ensure board members and district personnel – and thus our district – are protected from such embarrassments?   If so, who?  If not, how is the district doing to address this recurring problem?

 We look forward to a response to our outstanding questions.

Thank you.

Tina Gurdikian

We, too, await Mr. Newkirk’s response.

 

If due to these latest events, you now want to get directly involved in fighting for our children’s future, please go to our page, Groups Opposing WNW’s Agenda. Select a group, volunteer, and then

Let’s Fight Back, JeffCo!

 


 

2 thoughts on “11/18 (late) – Evergreen “AFP” Fallout – JeffCo Officials Still Scrambling

  1. I know how this all looks like a simple mistake and I am all but sure that it is. It might prove to be much ado about nothing, but, for those in Jeffco that are “in the know” concerning the Koch Brothers and their whole agenda, you would be wise to consider this:

    American Freedom Party = A White Supremacist Group

    Americans For Prosperity = A SuperPac funded by (maybe not so closeted) White Supremacists (the Koch Brothers)

    There really isn’t much of a difference between the two, folks.

    You should ALL be absolutely livid that a Political Action Committee, run by two brothers from Kansas, no less, who are richer than any ten kings of antiquity, is funding, sponsoring or has anything to do with a local school board election in Jeffco, more or less anywhere else in America.

    Your School Board deserves to be publicly shamed by that on a daily basis.

    The Americans For Prosperity entity is anything but what its name implies.

    Unless I miss my guess, there are too many people there that believe it is a relatively benign group, but it is not.

    You all need to do a lot more research on Americans For Prosperity and the Koch brothers that run it.

    It is a scary organization.

  2. As a taypayer /resident/concerned citizen I feel it is imperative that these questions be answered. There are very scary implications presented. Even if it is a mistake, BOE members and principals did not use good judgement in appearing at this event.

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