The Douglas County School Board is scheduled to be back in court on Oct. 6 for a hearing to decide how much in legal fees the district will pay after a judge found school board members broke Colorado Open Meetings Law.
In June, Douglas County District Court Judge Jeffrey Holmes ruled school board members Becky Myers, Mike Peterson, Christie Williams and Kaylee Winegar broke open meetings law by having a series of private one-on-one conversations about firing former superintendent Corey Wise.
State Rep. Bob Marshall, D-Highlands Ranch, who filed the lawsuit against the district in February 2022, is seeking over $103,000 in attorneys fees and court costs, which he’s entitled to under Sunshine Laws.
Since Holmes ruled that the board members acted illegally, the district is obligated to pay Marshall’s attorneys fees and court costs. However, the district can argue before a judge that the fees Marshall is seeking are unreasonable., which it plans to do at the Oct. 6 hearing.
Records requested by Colorado Community Media show that the district has paid $156,400 for its legal costs between March 11, 2022 and August 10, 2023 to defend the lawsuit.
In a filing ahead of the hearing, Marshall’s attorney, Steve Zansberg, argues his hourly fee, which was $450 in 2022 and $465 in 2023, is competitive at the market level, making the request reasonable.
“These hourly rates are substantially lower than the usual and customary rates charged by attorneys of comparable experience in this legal marketplace for providing similar services,” Zansberg says in the filing.
Zansberg said in the filing that the district’s attorney, Geoff Blue, of the law firm Gessler Blue, regularly charges $450 per hour. Gessler Blue is charging Douglas County School District a discounted rate of $225 per hour.
If the judge rules that Marshall’s request is reasonable, the total amount the district will owe will increase to include costs related to the Oct. 6 hearing.