Two of the Douglas County School District’s top communication department employees have past Republican campaign ties with individuals connected to district matters.
The department paid marketing and public affairs companies almost $64,000 in the last 15 months. About half that — nearly $29,000 — went to High Point Public Affairs, a Denver-based company that implemented DCSD’s telephone town halls.
High Point’s president, Jake Zambrano, previously was a co-principal at Republican campaign consulting firm Phase Line Strategies with Cinamon Watson, who is now the school district’s community relations officer. Both worked at Phase Line in the mid-2000s.
“I knew that (Zambrano) provided the service for telephone town halls,” Watson said. “We tried to procure it in-house and it wasn’t cost-effective.”
The town halls have “been a great way for us to reach out to the community, to people that are perhaps are too busy to attend meetings, and get them district news,” Watson added.
Phase Line since has merged with marketing company R&R Partners.
DCSD public information officer Michelle Yi also has ties to former Republican campaign acquaintances now involved with DCSD.
In 2012, while Yi was Joe Coors’ communications director during his run for Congress, Dustin Zvonek served as his campaign manager. Zvonek is director of the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), sponsor of the current “It’s Working” pro-DCSD advertising campaign. Zvonek also was current board member Justin Williams’ campaign coordinator during the 2011 election.
Yi acknowledged Zvonek is a personal friend, but said AFP’s ad campaign was a complete surprise to her.
“I really haven’t talked to him about anything like that,” she said.
Zambrano also is associate vice president for legislative affairs at EIS Solutions, a political advocacy firm where Zvonek worked until last year.
AFP, which promotes limited government and free markets, was founded with support from billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, known for their support of right-wing causes and advocacy groups.