Group plans Dr. D recall

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The DeVincentis e-mails

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Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis speaks during a special school board meeting at the Administration Building in downtown Steamboat Springs on Thursday.

— A coalition of former Steamboat Springs School Board members and John DeVincentis former supporters is weighing an effort to recall DeVincentis from the School Board.

"I think we were all disappointed John did not resign," said Jim Swiggart, the former chairman of Parents for Dr. D. "We were hoping John would step down. No one person can bring enough to the board to outweigh the distress that John has brought to the board and the problems that will follow."

It will take a petition signed by almost 2,000 registered school district voters to force a recall of DeVincentis.

DeVincentis has come under heavy criticism for a series of e-mails he sent between August 2004 and May 2005. In the e-mails to a teacher in Mercer Island, Wash., DeVincentis joked about spitting on former Steamboat Superintendent Cyndy Simms, joked he would be arrested for battering and abuse if he were married to her, bragged about lying to the Mercer Island School Board to get the board to hire Simms and suggests using Simms' personal life and family as a way to undermine her. He also described current Superintendent Donna Howell as "very similar" to Simms and announced his plans to run for election to the School Board to change the administration.

DeVincentis used his school computer and school account to send the e-mails.

The e-mails end about the time DeVincentis retired at the end of the 2004-05 school year. A few months later, he was elected to the School Board.

He has apologized for the e-mails, but has indicated he will not resign despite calls for him to do so from several former School Board members, including Paula Stephenson, Tom Miller-Freutel, Matthew Hermes, Millie Beall, Paul Fisher, Tom Sharp and Pat Gleason. Former members of Parents for Dr. D, a group organized to support DeVincentis during his public battles with Simms in 2002, also has asked DeVincentis to resign. They include Swiggart, Greg Dixson, Michael Loomis and Tom and Marci Valicenti.

During a special meeting of the board Thursday, School Board President Denise Connelly said the board will investigate how the Pilot & Today acquired the e-mails but otherwise will try to "move on." Printed copies of the e-mails were given to the Pilot & Today by a source that has asked to remain anonymous.

The board has given no indication it will take any other action in regard to the e-mails. Connelly suggested if community members feel a recall is necessary, they should pursue one.

Making amends

DeVincentis has offered to host three public meetings from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to hear from the community regarding the e-mails.

However, former school board members question whether an apology and public meetings are enough to mitigate the fallout the school board, the district and the community is experiencing as a result of DeVincentis' actions.

"We seem to be living in a world of apologies these days," said Jim Gill, another former school board member concerned about the future of the district under the current administration. "Apologies seem to be the buzzword. However, it's one thing to apologize for one moment of indiscretion. I don't know if John DeVincentis' actions can be categorized as a single moment of indiscretion. His apparent vitriolic anger (in the e-mails) occurred over a long period of time."

Gill said he was particularly concerned with the School Board's position to keep DeVincentis on the board despite DeVincentis' admittance that he lied to two Mercer Island School Board members who came to talk to Steamboat Springs school officials before hiring Simms.

In an e-mail dated Oct. 13, 2004, DeVincentis writes: "Hate to say it, but I lied like a snake and blamed our board for everything. I blamed (believe it or not) policy governance for being a major contributor to our problem. Another major lie on my part :"

DeVincentis "admitted dishonesty, which by most of our standards would be unacceptable for an elected official," Gill said. "He admitted he lied."

After being read DeVincentis' comments Saturday, Connelly said, "He lied to the board?" and said she could not comment.

Parallel tracks

Connelly said she wanted to make it clear the board does not "condone the contents of the e-mails" and it believes "disparaging remarks of any past superintendent are unacceptable." However, Connelly said the board has decided to move along "parallel tracks" by dealing with the DeVincentis controversy at the same time as continuing on with normal school district business.

After having private discussions with the board's attorney, Richard Lyons, and DeVincentis, the board essentially agreed that DeVincentis is not acting unethically in his capacity as a School Board member now.

"If (DeVincentis) was continuing to act unethically, we as a board could meet in executive session and vote to censure him," she said. "I don't see that that fits here."

Not insignificant

Connelly said her comments about the board "moving forward" do not mean the board feels the situation is insignificant.

"My main concern is to not be at a standstill because of this, to not be paralyzed by this for the betterment of this district," she said. "We're not saying it's not a big deal or that we don't want to deal with it, absolutely not. I'm just saying we can't afford to be paralyzed by this to the detriment of the district."

As a result of her actions, Connelly said she understands that there are segments of the community that may be prepared to move forward with a recall, which she acknowledged could include her.

"There is a concern there, but does that mean we stop functioning? I feel we have to proceed for the integrity of our district," she said. "As I've said before, everyone needs to use their heads and their hearts and go forward with what they feel is best, whatever that may be."

A recall

Sherry Wofford, Routt County Clerk and Recorder chief deputy clerk, said if a recall were to take place, the school district would be responsible for reimbursing the county for any costs associated with the recall.

As of Friday, no one had begun the recall process for any school official, she said.

To recall an elected official, a person would present a petition for the recall, and upon approval of that petition, would begin collecting signatures from eligible voters in support of the recall.

The recall of a School Board member requires a petition signed by enough registered voters in the school district to equal 40 percent of the votes cast in the School Board member's last race for election.

Specifically, to recall John DeVincentis, who defeated Michael Loomis in 2005, would require 1,933 signatures on the petition.

Once the completed petitions are reviewed for validity, an election would be scheduled. That election would include the recall question as well as the election of a new board member.

There can be as many candidates on the ballot as desired. However, those individuals also would have to petition to get on the ballot, Wofford said.

Swiggart said he hopes to have more information about the recall this week.

"Our goal is to get together to firm up those ideas to give interested community members some direction," he said. "We will be discussing ways for the community to get involved."

Comments

another_local 7 years, 8 months ago

It is a shame that Dr D can not bring himself to do the right thing and resign.

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jerry carlton 7 years, 8 months ago

I have no children in school, have never had any children in Steamboat schools, and have never met any of the people involved in this fiasco. However, I am a taxpayer and am willing to volunteer to stand in front of City market, Safeway, or Walmart on Saturday and Sunday to collect signatures for the recall of Denise Connely and Dr. D.

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linus 7 years, 8 months ago

"No one person can bring enough to the board to outweigh the distress that John has brought to the board and the problems that will follow."

Looks to me like Swiggart and his group are the ones causing the problems now. The board is trying to move forward but the John lynch mob and the Pilot are the ones making that difficult. And the e-mail investigation is part of moving forward too since releasing information off of school computers is a big deal and illegal. To quote "WZ" from a comment on April 14,

"Don't you people care about how 3 year old information buried in a sea of bits and bytes walked right out of your school district?!

Imagine all the private information held in the school district's possession for goodness sake! Sensitive information about your sons and daughters.

What Scott is saying is that anyone can walk into the school district and demand their public information without discretion?!

What a bunch of dedicated, thoughtless swallowers you must be if you concur."

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jerry carlton 7 years, 8 months ago

linus: Well, 80% of the people who voted say you are wrong, and this weeks question is running 72% in favor of the Pilot publishing the e- mails. You 20% will get your chance to vote again in the recall election.

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WZ 7 years, 8 months ago

A recall is a loose-loose effort.

"the school district would be responsible for reimbursing the county for any costs associated with the recall."

You want to take more funds, time and energy away from our children's education?! Shame on you!

If you want to "volunteer" to help advance the education and betterment of our children, I would think your time and energy would be way more effective by volunteering directly at our schools.

Approach me at City Market for a recall signature.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 8 months ago

JLC- How many people is 80% though? I voted from 2 computers and have access to more. How many times did you vote? Hmmm...how many times did Gwendolyn, kingsride, Howell, Simms, D, Swiggart, linus, mom or WZ vote? You know what they say, "100% of nothing is still nothing."

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Magpie 7 years, 8 months ago

As I said with the DA recall effort - show me who is stepping up to take Dr. D's place and then I will consider signing the recall.

School board is a 5-year position which has not previously had many people running for it (often 6 people for the 5 positions).

Plus school board is done by director districts (which is ridiculous in a district our size, but I digress). There is a district map at the school board office, but I don't even recall what district Dr. D. is in or what area that covers. So, when you are out with your recall effort, I think you will be more successful if you know the districts and have a list of candidates from that district (and Denise Connoly's if you want to recall her also) so we can know who might be the replacements and if they are any better.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 8 months ago

No, Magpie- it's the Vote for Anyone Against * mentality. It doesn't matter if they are better or worse- just not *. (use the name of your choice; it works all the way to the presidency and it didn't work in 2004)

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 8 months ago

Scott Stanford... is this statement true "we as a board could meet in executive session and vote to censure him"? I was under the impression that any discussion of an elected public official was to be dealt with in public no matter how embarrassing.

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elphaba 7 years, 8 months ago

Dear WZ What exactly is a "loose loose" (sic) situation?

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Andyeast 7 years, 8 months ago

Boards can go into executive session. Not everything has to be public. Typically personell matters are handled in executive session.

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Magpie 7 years, 8 months ago

Kielbasa - Ah yes, the grass is always greener mentality.

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Scott Stanford 7 years, 8 months ago

JQPUBLIC:

You are correct. The board cannot go into executive session to discuss a member of the board or his actions: This is made clear in 24-6-402(4), the Colorado Open Meetings Law... The following passages are taken from the section of the law that defines when executive sessions are allowed ... Part (II) is critical:


(f) (I) Personnel matters except if the employee who is the subject of the session has requested an open meeting, or if the personnel matter involves more than one employee, all of the employees have requested an open meeting. With respect to hearings held pursuant to the "Teacher Employment, Compensation, and Dismissal Act of 1990", article 63 of title 22, C.R.S., the provisions of section 22-63-302 (7) (a), C.R.S., shall govern in lieu of the provisions of this subsection (4).

(II) The provisions of subparagraph (I) of this paragraph (f) shall not apply to discussions concerning any member of the local public body, any elected official, or the appointment of a person to fill the office of a member of the local public body or an elected official or to discussions of personnel policies that do not require the discussion of matters personal to particular employees.


So, John DeVincentis, as a member of the local public body, could not be discussed in executive session.

The board can go into executive session for these summarized reasons:

1) Specific personnel matters (Elected officials do not qualify as "personnel") 2) To discuss property transactions 3) To get advice from its attorney on a specific legal matter 4) To discuss negotiations, such as with an employee group

The law is pretty clear and easy to follow:

http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdelib/LibDev/LibraryDistrictInformation/download/pdf/4.3ColoradoSunshineLawannotated.pdf

Scott Stanford Editor, Steamboat Pilot & Today editor@steamboatpilot.com

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reallocal 7 years, 8 months ago

Come on WZ and linus, who do you think you are fooling? And, Matt, we all thank you for your opinion. At least you have something logical to back yourself up. Although, your admission of multiple votes pokes a rather large hole in your credibility, if not your sense of morals and ethics. The fact of the matter remains...who wants this man representing the best interests of their children? DeVincentis has not only betrayed the public with regards to board ethics and conduct, but has also displayed a character unbecoming (and I mean more than prom here) to our children. The "I made a mistake" is useless. Stop trying to forgive DeVincentis. Do what's right and appropriate. If Dr D. cared, he would not be wasting taxpayer money and the public's time. He would come clean about McGowan, admit his mistakes, and let everyone move on. As taxpaying citizens, I'm more than proud about the whole thing. BTW, Kay Weinland has to approve the wording first, and she was on vacation. Now that she's back, we can get this all rolling. Buh-bye John, Denise, and Jerry...

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Finn 7 years, 8 months ago

Why is there even any question? DeVincentis has displayed a disturbing pattern of unprofessionalism, including fantasizing about causing bodily harm to women, using people's personal lives to torment them into submitting to his close-minded view of what is right, lying as a State of Colorado employee and again as an elected official, and, to top it all off, coaching others on how to sabotage and undermine anyone who doesn't agree with his/their point of view. This is a democracy DeVincentis. No one person has all the right answers.

Unfortunately, now I fear for the well being and safety of my friends and family within the Steamboat Springs school district. I can only hope that in the future we will not be looking back at these disturbing trends and wondering why nobody did anything to address the obvious signs that this potentially violent individual displayed....and collectively saying "what if?" Is the community of Steamboat Springs really going to stand by and let that happen?

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 8 months ago

And I thank you for the courtesy, Reallocal. It is greatly appreciated. If my morals were that messed up, though, I'd go on letting people believe that I voted only once, when again, I know for a fact that I'm not the only one.

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reallocal 7 years, 8 months ago

I only voted once...really. Although I did choose the "see the results without answering" option several different times...

Matt, one must admire your loyalty and yet question your common sense. You are a highly moral and ethical man, yet you are still supporting a person who has proven themself to be not only unethical, immoral, and, frankly, arrogant, if not irresponsible and stupid. You would honestly, from the bottom of my heart, do yourself better to trust the public tide, which has washed out from under DeVincentis and exposed his sexist, arrogant, and immature attitude than you would be to continue supporting him. Other than blind faith, I cannot understand why you continue to do so.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 8 months ago

Please remember, Reallocal- I'm not supporting him; I'm trying to get people to understand they need all the information before making a judgement call that might get someone worse in the position or possibly nobody at all, since we all know how little people run for these positions. And as I have explained before, blind faith is not what I'm all about. That's why I want all the information to come out and not just one side of it.

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wzwzwz 7 years, 8 months ago

A school board member acts in an inexcusable manner and the president of the school board sits on her hands.
The weak knee leadership from Dinise Connelly is as inexcusable as Dr DeVincentis' actions.

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