10.8.15 Witt’s Carnival Sideshow

If you saw Witt’s stunt this morning–and it’s hard to imagine that you didn’t because social media has not stopped talking about it since–you know that it was merely a distraction.

  1. The Independent Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction over Colorado school board members (see page 6).
  2. The IEC isn’t meeting until Nov. 6 — after the election.
  3. There’s no reason for them to call a special early meeting (see #1, above).

Witt’s complaint only asks if voting on the matter in a public meeting was a violation of sunshine laws, failing to make the distinction between voting in public and deciding in public. Sunshine laws exist to prevent elected officials from merely rubber-stamping behind-the-scenes decisions in public.

Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams made the decision to hire Brad Miller before the Dec. 13 board meeting.  We know because Bob Kerrigan, president of the Thompson School District Board of Education, told his fellow board members that Jeffco had a school board attorney — and told them this on Wednesday, a full day before the Dec. 13 Jeffco BOE meeting where the issue was first discussed in public.

Not only did Kerrigan know that Jeffco had already hired a firm 24 hours before the BOE met to discuss the issue, he knew that Jeffco would be hiring Brad Miller himself, as reported by the Reporter Herald on Dec. 12:

Kerrigan then revealed that a contract had already been drawn up by a Colorado Springs-based law firm that currently represents Jefferson County schools.

The proposed contract, dated two days after Kerrigan was elected board president, begins: “We are pleased that the District has asked Millers Sparks LLC … to represent Thompson.”

It’s an issue we’ve written about multiple times, and it’s one of many, many reasons to vote yes on the recall.

Meanwhile, we’ll leave you with some of today’s highlights, such as the 7 News story “Jeffco Public Schools board president Ken Witt stunts for attention as he faces recall” (and hopefully this clip will open with the anchor saying “Bizarre news out of Jeffco today” because that’s by far our favorite).

And we’ll end with one of the many, many funny social media posts that we saw in our feed today:

Charles Buchanan on Twitter

Kinda wish Witt had ended the press-stunt with a citizens arrest of himself. #Copolitics #JeffcoRecall #JeffCo

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

Story #9 from 2013-2015 Poll Results: Against Policy, Witt Repeatedly Withholds Information and Forces Surprise Votes

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure. We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #9:

What Happened: First, check out the two videos here, courtesy Support Jeffco Kids and Transparency Jeffco:

Support Jeffco Kids | Facebook

One more small clip. What is the rush? Why not thoughtful discussion? Why not follow policy? They already have the votes to do anything they want to do,…

Board of Education 12-12-13

This is video from the December 12th, 2013 board of education meeting and study session. In it, the board discusses hiring an attorney solely to represent the board.

If these were the only two instances of last-minute information sharing, surprise motions, and violations of “Sunshine Laws,” that would be troubling enough. Rest assured, these videos from September 2015 and December 2013 are just the bookends of a long string of such instances. For strategic reasons, maybe not wanting community criticism, Ken Witt hides as much information as possible from Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman. Dahlkemper and Fellman protest that they have not had enough time to review the motion at hand or the relevant background information. They have also not had enough time to ask appropriate questions. Sometimes they (correctly) allege that the late information sharing and surprise vote-taking go against stated board policy. Witt goes ahead and holds the vote anyway. John Newkirk and Julie Williams, who have obviously been apprised of the background information, go along with Witt and create a 3-2 vote.

Why It Matters: Trust and good governance. The linchpin of our democratic republic is informed decision making, first by voters about candidates, and then by elected officials about the things they’re voting on. Ours is a country, and a community, that is fine with being in the minority of opinion, if we feel like the issues have been thought through and discussed by the officials we’ve elected. Dahlkemper and Fellman, over and over, could not make informed decisions, because Witt consistently didn’t allow them to be informed in a reasonable manner. Voters see through that. It’s as if everyone that voted for Dahlkemper and Fellman was being disenfranchised every time this happened. People expect better from our public officials.

Furthermore, the pubic deserves to hear spirited debate and a critical back-and-forth about the tough issues facing the school district, even if the discussion still results in a 3-2 vote. Short-circuiting such discussion is the purview of despotic leaders. It’s fear-driven. For a “leader” who claims a “mandate” from the voters, to then hide so many discussions about his decisions, there’s a level of hypocrisy that’s obvious to anyone that’s fair-minded.

As was pointed out many times: they had the votes, why did Witt keep doing this? Was it to not allow critical discussion? Was it that their invisible handlers were impatient to keep WNW on a certain timeline according to their playbook, so they didn’t want to have votes spill over or tabled until the next board meeting? Was it just clumsiness and a Nixonian above-the-law arrogance? Perhaps all three of those things? We’ll never know, but we do know that the frequency with which this happened made a lot of people take notice, and that it further eroded whatever trust this board had.

With that, your new daily reminder to vote Lasell, Stevens, Rupert, Harmon, and Mitchell, a decidedly competent and independent-thinking group.