Campaign complaints moving forward

Parents say school election results don’t change facts

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Douglas County residents who filed complaints related to Douglas County School District campaign activities said they’re moving forward with their charges, regardless of the election results.

School officials, who previously have called the allegations frivolous and unfounded, said it’s time to move forward.

Former school board candidate Julie Keim, who lost her Nov. 5 bid for a seat on the board, accused the district of violating the state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act. She filed her allegation Oct. 17 with the Colorado Secretary of State, claiming DCSD used district resources to support its preferred slate of candidates.

A hearing on the matter is set for 9 a.m. Dec. 2 at the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts in Denver.

DCSD has retained the Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck legal firm to represent it in the case.

Keim also has hired an attorney.

“It pains me to keep paying an attorney, but I’m going to move forward,” she said. “Someone has to follow through and hold the district accountable.”

Three parents are pressing for answers to questions surrounding the Douglas County Educational Foundation. Parents Meg Masten and Susan Arnold have filed complaints with the Internal Revenue Service alleging improper behavior by the district’s nonprofit fundraising arm.

“These complaints are politically motivated,” school board president John Carson said. “They stem from the election and efforts to attack the school district.

“The election is over. It is time for all parties to work together for the benefit of students, teachers and parents.”

Both Arnold and Masten said the school board election results have no bearing on their concerns.

“The IRS complaints stand,” said Susan Arnold, the first to file on Oct. 14. “The facts that drove the complaints initially still stand.”

Masten recently submitted a second complaint with the IRS, almost identical to Arnold’s.

“I firmly believe the way the funds were funneled through the foundation to pay for Bill Bennett’s speech and white paper, and for Rick Hess, do not fall in line with the objectives of the foundation. So I question the motives behind it, the ethical behavior.”

The complaint alleges political campaigning and deceptive and improper fundraising practices by the foundation.

Foundation funds paid for DCSD consultants including former U.S. Secretary of Education Bill Bennett, who spoke in support of the district’s education reforms weeks before the election but who was only later identified as a paid consultant.

The Holland and Hart legal firm will represent the foundation.

Former DCEF chairman Bob Kaser has not filed a formal complaint, but is determined to gain access to foundation meeting minutes he first requested in August.

“I’ve been promised them by (foundation director) Cinamon (Watson) and the DCEF’s attorney,” he said. “I’m going to stay engaged in my quest to obtain a copy of the board minutes for my personal view.”

Information contained in those minutes will determine if Kaser takes any further action, he said.

“We’ve got lots of suppositions because of the lack of transparency by DCEF,” he said. “We need facts as opposed to supposition.”

Watson also is the school district’s community relations officer.