DeVincentis recall effort falls short | SteamboatToday.com

DeVincentis recall effort falls short

Mike McCollum

— An attempt to recall Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis fell 154 signatures short.

The Routt County Clerk and Recorder’s Office announced late Thursday that 470 of the 2,249 signatures collected by members of Save Our Schools RE-2 were invalid. The group needed to collect 1,933 valid voter signatures for the recall effort to proceed to the ballot this fall.

Routt County Clerk Kay Weinland said about 21 percent of the signatures were tossed out, which falls within the 20- to 30-percent range typically seen in recall petition processes.

Vicki Weber, Routt County elections supervisor, said the biggest mistake petition signers made was using post office boxes rather than physical addresses. Other mistakes included addresses that did not match voter registration records, duplicate signatures and petitions submitted by unregistered voters.

Two people who signed the petitions withdrew their signatures during the validation process.

DeVincentis said Thursday night that he was glad to put the issue behind him, and he thanked his fellow School Board members for supporting him through the process.

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“They have taken on an extraordinary amount of extra time and effort because of this ordeal,” DeVincentis said in a statement posted on http://www.steamboatpilot.com. He later confirmed by telephone that the statement was his.

“I hope that the former board members will allow this new board to now move on in its new direction to create the best possible school district for our community and children,” DeVincentis wrote.

The Save Our Schools RE-2 group, which was spearheaded by former School Board member Pat Gleason and former School Board president Paula Stephenson, waged the recall petition campaign.

The group collected signatures starting in early May, following the public release of e-mails DeVincentis wrote about former superintendent Cyndy Simms during 2004-05, his final year as principal at Strawberry Park Elementary School.

Gleason resigned from the School Board after releasing the e-mails to the Pilot & Today in March. At the time, Gleason said he did something he felt was right, but that his actions conflicted with board ethics.

The School Board subsequently launched an investigation into the release of the e-mails. An investigation report and transcripts from interviews taken during the course of the investigation were released during the past two weeks.

The investigation revealed Superintendent Donna Howell ordered a district employee to download documents from DeVincentis’ work computer and that she shared those documents with Stephenson, who was board president at the time. Howell said a variety of concerns about DeVincentis motivated her to retrieve the data from his school laptop. Howell told the investigator she later destroyed her copies of the e-mails and that she did not give them to Gleason. The investigator, Grand Junction attorney Earl Rhodes, determined Howell had the legal right to access DeVincentis’ work computer.

Stephenson refused to cooperate with the investigation.

After Thursday’s announcement by the Clerk and Recorder’s Office, Gleason said he would use his right to review the disallowed signatures during the 15-day protest period, but he acknowledged defeat in forcing the recall.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed. A lot of work went into it,” he said. “I’m going down (today) to go over it with Kay (Weinland). That is a lot to make up. If we were looking at 10 or 20 signatures, then maybe we’d have a chance, but we have the right to look at the denied ones.”

Stephenson is out of town and was unavailable for comment.

Jim Swiggart, who also helped lead the recall effort, said he also was disappointed in the failure to recall DeVincentis.

“I think that I’ll probably sit with the thought that it’s disappointing – there’s not much else to say,” he said.

Board member Jerry Kozatch said he was anxious to put the recall behind him and focus on future board projects, such as welcoming a new director of curriculum and instruction and a new Strawberry Park Elementary School principal.

“The recall election, for me, it’s part of the democratic process,” he said. “I wasn’t taking sides from the beginning of this, but the end result is I don’t know what is going to happen. All of us are trying very hard to do the best we can.”

Board President Denise Connelly echoed Kozatch’s statement that the board can now focus on the future, and she added she was hopeful the negativity surrounding the recall effort may now subside.

“We just do have a lot of goals and building projects and I hope we can get back to the business of education and working together,” she said. “There has been just so much negativity, and I don’t think that, as a town, it’s good for us.”

Petition results

Petition numbers provided by the Routt County Clerk and Recorder’s Office:

Total Number of Sections Submitted – 79

Total Number of Signatures Submitted for Review – 2,249

Total Number of Signatures Required by Statute – 1,933

Total number of Statutorily Acceptable Signatures – 1,779

Total Number of Invalid Signatures – 470

Address Questionable – 6

Address Rejected – 161

Canceled Record – 42

Signatures on Disallowed Sections – 117

Not Registered – 77

Signature Rejected – 3

Unused Line – 4

n Valid Duplicate Signature – 29

n Wrong District – 29

n Signatures Withdrawn – 2