Douglas County School District open meetings appeal denied

Judge's order to conduct official business in public meetings stands

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A judge has denied the Douglas County School Board’s request to reconsider or clarify an order that prohibits the board from having serial meetings to avoid Colorado Open Meeting Law requirements.

On July 6, Douglas County District Court Judge Jeffrey Holmes wrote the court “does not find that there is a manifest error of fact or law that mandates a different result or other circumstances that result in manifest injustice warranting a change in the court's order.”

In March, Holmes ordered in a preliminary injunction that the board not discuss public business or take formal action outside of public meetings. The injunction came in response to a complaint filed by Robert Marshall, alleging school board members took action to fire former superintendent Corey Wise outside of public meetings, violating open meeting law.

Following the injunction, the school board switched counsel to Gessler Blue and attorney Geoffrey Blue filed a motion April 25 asking the judge to either clarify his preliminary injunction or withdraw it entirely.

Blue’s motion contended the judge misapplied the law by issuing a preliminary injunction but also that his order was overly broad and too vague for directors to reasonably follow. Blue argued the order prohibits any one-on-one meetings about district business among board directors. 

A request for a comment from Blue was not immediately returned. 

Steve Zansberg, the attorney representing Marshall, said the decision was expected.

“It summarily denied the motion in a single sentence,” Zansberg said. “It wasn’t particularly surprising.”

Holmes also denied a motion filed early in the case to dismiss Marshall’s lawsuit, writing the board’s reasons for seeking dismissal were unclear and the court had jurisdiction to decide the lawsuit.

The basis of the lawsuit stems from allegations that Douglas County School Board Directors Mike Peterson, Christy Williams, Kaylee Winegar and Becky Myers broke Colorado’s Sunshine Laws by holding a chain of private, one-on-one meetings to plan the removal of former Superintendent Corey Wise.

Peterson and Williams eventually met with Wise in a private meeting at a Parker coffee shop to ask that he step down. If he did not, a board majority was prepared to terminate him, they told Wise during the Jan. 28 meeting.

Minority directors David Ray, Susan Meek and Elizabeth Hanson held a special public meeting Jan. 31 and alleged the ultimatum made to Wise broke Sunshine Laws because they saw it as formal action taken outside a public meeting. The three did not know about the meeting between Peterson, Williams and Wise until after it took place.

Wise was later fired without cause in a public meeting. Wise has since filed his own lawsuit against the school district.

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