The Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 Board of Education virtual meeting on Oct. 20 shut down early after members of the community unmuted themselves to yell a threat and comments directed at board member Lance McDaniel.
A petition to remove McDaniel from the Montezuma-Cortez school board has been making rounds in Cortez since July.
One attendee said: “Lance if you (inaudible), I’m gonna rape all your daughters,” at which point Board of Education President Sherri Wright shut down the Zoom meeting.
Board members attended the meeting in person, but members of the public joined via Zoom.
Superintendent Lori Haukeness said the incident was reported to the Cortez Police Department, which is investigating the source of the threat. Some members of the public signed onto the Zoom call with only a first name, a single letter or the type of mobile phone they used.
“In this situation, it was a direct threat, and we will take this to the furthest legal parameters,” Haukeness said.
Virtual meetings have had higher attendance and participation than in-person meetings, so the option will continue to be available, Haukeness said.
But a shortfall of the virtual meetings is inappropriate comments, she said.
Wright said during the meeting that the board would not address comments that are not directly related to students’ education or comments that are inappropriate and hateful.
One public comment from a Zoom attendee signed on as “Mindy” said McDaniel “claims to be Antifa,” or anti-fascist, and is “hindering our children.”
A board news release Friday afternoon stated members were “shocked, disheartened and disappointed” by the comments. It did not identify McDaniel as the target of the attacks.
The school board “strives to serve as a positive role model of civic leadership for students by, among other things, treating each other and the public with dignity and respect, notwithstanding differences of opinion,” the statement said.
Because of the comments directed at McDaniel, the board now plans to limit public comments during meetings to a total of two minutes.
Cortez Police Chief Vern Knuckles said the department was investigating the threat. Using a list of participants and their IP addresses – a numeric address given to a computer connected to the internet – the department is working with the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office to identify the individual who made the statement.
The Police Department will then talk with the district attorney about possible actions, Knuckles said.
McDaniel has not responded to The Journal’s emailed requests for comment. However, after the meeting Oct. 20, he posted on Twitter:
“At tonight’s school board meeting, someone wished rape on my daughter, called me a pedophile and was attacked for delivering pizza to a middle school LGBTQ lunch club one a week. I’m hated by the right people.”
Petition to remove McDanielA petition drive to remove McDaniel from the school board picked up steam in July.
According to the statement of grounds for the recall, acquired by KSJD, a group of district members wants McDaniel removed because he “has shown a lack of leadership” and has “proven to be a poor role model for our children.”
“Many of the school children in our community follow him on social media,” and McDaniel posts “personal opinions, likes and dislikes,” according to the statement for grounds for recall.
School board members volunteer their time and services, and are unpaid elected officials.
The organizers of the petition, Malynda Nelsen and Deborah McHenry, did not respond to The Journal’s requests for comment.
The petition formed after a Facebook post from McDaniel ignited heated exchanges on social media and in Cortez City Council meetings in December.
His post referenced proposed names for the park on the south side of Cortez, now Veterans Park. McDaniel expressed disappointment that South Park had not been chosen as the name for the park, and added, “Damn veterans won again.”
He later said he mistakenly thought Veterans Park was the name of the south side park site.
“It was meant as a lighthearted comment, it was in no way meant to be disrespectful to veterans,” he told The Journal in January.
The petition has been deemed sufficient by the Montezuma County Clerk & Recorder’s Office and faces four officially notarized protests, said Kim Percell, Montezuma County clerk & recorder.
“My next step will be to secure a hearing judge and set a date for the hearing,” Percell said.