Recall effort moves forward | SteamboatToday.com

Recall effort moves forward

Mike Lawrence

— The group working on a recall of Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis says it has about 2,300 signatures, nearly 400 more than needed to put the recall on November’s ballot.

Save Our Schools RE-2 will submit the petition signatures to Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland today. The group needs 1,933 verified signatures from voters who live in the school district, 40 percent of the total number of votes cast in DeVincentis’ landslide election to the School Board in 2005.

The group has collected signatures since 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. DeVincentis was Strawberry Park’s principal for 21 years.

Paula Stephenson, a former School Board president and one of several leaders of the recall effort, said Sunday that at least 59 people carried petitions across Steamboat to collect signatures.

“We don’t have an exact count, but I think a good estimate would be 2,300,” Stephenson said of the signature tally. “If it’s not over 2,300, it’s somewhere between 2,200 and 2,300.”

Stephenson said the group plans to submit the petition and signatures this afternoon. Weinland will then have 10 working days to determine if enough of the signatures are valid to place a recall on the ballot. It would be the first recall election of any kind in Routt County since 1986.

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Should the group have 1,933 valid signatures, DeVincentis or any other eligible voter would then have 15 days to protest the petition.

According to the Colorado Revised Statutes, such an effort would need to “set forth specific grounds for the protest.”

“Grounds include, but are not limited to, failure of any portion of a petition or circulator affidavit to meet the requirements : or any conduct on the part of petition circulators that substantially misleads persons signing the petition,” the statutes read.

DeVincentis said Sunday that he has not yet considered whether he will protest the petition, if enough signatures prove valid.

“I haven’t even thought about it,” he said. “I’m just living my life. I’m not concerned about whatever they’re doing.”

DeVincentis said he also is not working with Citizens for Fair Politics, a local group that opposes the recall effort due to ethical concerns about how the e-mails were obtained. Michelle Caragol is listed as the group’s registered agent with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. Caragol said Sunday that the group’s future actions depend on the outcome of an investigation into how the e-mails were obtained.

In April, the School Board hired Grand Junction attorney Earl Rhodes to conduct an investigation about potential violations of School Board policies that may have occurred in the finding and release of DeVincentis’ derogatory e-mails about Simms.

“We plan on running an ad to make people aware (of potential violations) and make sure they read the investigation,” Caragol said.

Former School Board member Pat Gleason is the registered agent for Save Our Schools. He gave DeVincentis’ e-mails to the Steamboat Pilot & Today earlier this year.

Gleason said SOS RE-2 anticipated some of the petition signatures might be challenged and tried to get more than enough signatures from the outset.

“We feel there’s a certain number of signatures that will be purged for one reason or another,” Gleason said. “But we feel confident that we have enough.”

The group circulated petitions at a variety of Steamboat events and locations in the past two months. Stephenson said the group’s most successful location was the recent free reggae concert at Howelsen Hill, which yielded more than 175 signatures.

“We tried to make it as broad-based as possible,” Gleason said of the petition effort.

DeVincentis said he has been focusing on School Board issues such as policy governance, school renovations and construction, and his ongoing advocacy for small class sizes.

He said he has not determined whether he will campaign against the recall, should the petition prove valid.

“Every once in a while, somebody will call me and tell me what’s going on, that’s it,” DeVincentis said. “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”

– To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com