District lawyers change mid-lawsuit

Gdowski withdraws from Montessori case; Lyons to take over

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The attorney representing the Steamboat Springs School District in a lawsuit over a Montessori charter school has withdrawn from the case.

Chris Gdowski, of the Boulder-based firm Caplan and Earnest, said he sent an electronic filing to 14th Judicial District Court on Wednesday announcing his resignation from the case. The filing also stated that Richard Lyons replaces him as the district's general counsel in the lawsuit, Gdowski said.

"I think the direction it's headed is that (Lyons) is going to jump in," Gdowski said. "It seemed the best interests of the district would be served if (Lyons) was given full reign."

The School Board, at its Oct. 13 meeting, appointed Lyons as its general counsel while also appointing Gdowski as its special counsel so he could continue to handle existing legal issues such as the Montessori case. The School Board's action was taken as a result of its decision to attract offers from other law firms after Gdowski left the Denver firm of Semple, Miller and Mooney last summer.

The School Board, at last week's meeting, said Lyons would be available to assist Gdowski in the Montessori lawsuit, but it never indicated he would take over.

The School Board and both attorneys felt it was best to transfer counsel to Lyons given the extended length of time that could transpire before the suit is resolved, School Board President Paul Fisher said Wednesday. The attorneys agreed an expeditious transfer would be best, he said.

The School Board will pay Gdowski and Lyons for their work on the case during the transfer of counsel, Fisher said.

Also on Wednesday, Lyons said he submitted an electronic court filing to the District Court in Routt County requesting an extension for the school district to respond to a Steamboat Springs Montessori motion for summary judgment in the case. The request asks for an extension sometime after the Nov. 4 election.

Lyons said the request was made for several reasons, including his recent appointment to the case and because the School Board will have at least two new members after Election Day. Lyons said he wants to be sure his work on the issue accurately represents the position of the new School Board. He hasn't talked to any of the candidates about their stance on the issue, he said.

"I'm not sure what direction (the School Board) will go in three weeks," Lyons said.

Steamboat Springs Montessori attorney Bill Bethke said he's getting frustrated by the numerous extensions the school district has requested.

"It's just stretching out to a point when I think we need to try to get the issues posted in front of a court as soon as possible to get it decided," Bethke said.

The suit, which was originally filed in Denver District Court, has been transferred to Routt County after a change of venue motion by the school district was approved by a Denver judge. District Judge Michael O'Hara is assigned to the case.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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