Bid to stop Dolores school board recall is denied

Wednesday, July 25, 2018 9:55 PM
A protest hearing for a petition to recall two Dolores school board members was held July 19 at the Dolores School District RE-4A administration office in Dolores.

Protest petitions filed against a recall election for two Dolores School board members have been denied, allowing the election to move forward.

On July 19, a protest hearing was held to determine whether a petition to recall Dolores School District RE-4A board members Dee Prock and Vangi McCoy was valid.

Recall organizers allege the board members failed to follow school policies and did not do enough to improve student academic performance.

Twelve protests were filed against the recall petition, claiming the language was too vague and did not comply with Colorado law.

But in a July 20 decision, hearing officer Mike Green rejected the legal reasoning of the protest petitions and ruled the recall petition language does meet the requirements of the law.

Sufficient signatures have been obtained for the recall election, according to Montezuma County Clerk Kim Percell. But as part of the process, opponents were given the opportunity to protest the validity of the recall process in front of a hearing officer who rules whether it should go forward.

About 20 citizens attended the July 19 hearing, held at the school administration office and overseen by hearing officer Mike Green, a local attorney.

During the hearing, petitions giving reasons to deny the recall were submitted for the record. Three citizens spoke against the recall, and two spoke for it. Recall opponents were given a chance for rebuttal.

Linnea Vass said the recall petition should have been denied by the county Clerk and Recorder’s Office because the recall statement contained “false and misleading” information in violation of Colorado law.

Vass took issue with the claim that policies were not followed and noted that specific policies were not identified. She said her review of the school board minutes during the time served by Prock and McCoy did not report violations of school policy.

Recall supporter Wendy Moore disagreed, saying policies were not followed. She cited a case of student bullying reportedly caught on video that she believes was not properly handled by school officials in accordance with discipline policies.

Recall supporter Lenetta Shull commented that the school used to have a high academic performance rating but no longer does, and she said “poor leadership” by the school board prompted the recall petition.

In the rebuttal, recall opponent Maegan Crowley questioned the substance of the petition language, saying it was “very general and too vague” and did not provide enough information for the public.

Kay Phelps, who is a newly elected member of the school board, also said the language of the recall petition was too general, and people might not have understood what they were signing.

According to Colorado’s Petition for Recall statute, the general statement of the recall notice “may not include any profane or false statements. The statement is for the information of the electors who are the sole and exclusive judges of the legality, reasonableness, and sufficiency of the ground or grounds assigned for the recall. The ground or grounds are not open to review.”

In the ruling denying the protests, Green stated he “can find no requirements in the statutes or case law that the Clerk and Recorder conduct an investigation into the truth or accuracy of the recall petitions’ general statement.”

The ruling cites case law that states, “Recalls are a political process, they do not require the precision of an impeachment,” and that recalls are a “fundamental constitutional right of Colorado citizens and the reservation of this power in the people must be liberally construed.”

If there is no appeal by the protest opponents, an election date will be set for the recall of the two board members.