School District releases investigation transcripts | SteamboatToday.com

School District releases investigation transcripts

Mike McCollum

— The Steamboat Springs School Board on Monday released transcripts of the interviews conducted in the investigation into controversial e-mails by former board member John DeVincentis.

The 157-page document is available online at Steamboatpilot.com or at the district’s Web site, http://www.sssd.k12.co.us. Board President Denise Connelly and board member Jeff Troeger said Monday the purpose of releasing the transcripts is to make sure the public has access to all information related to the investigation.

“There was a delay in getting some of the information out there because of the Fourth of July holiday and we wanted to make sure we were not violating anyone’s confidentiality,” Troeger said.

The document includes interview transcripts from Superintendent Donna Howell, Assistant to the Superintendent Ann Muhme, DeVincentis, Director of Finance and Operations Dale Mellor, Director of Technology Tim Miles and former Technology Director Cathleen Nardi.

Grand Junction attorney Earl Rhodes, was hired to conduct the investigation. The release of the transcripts follows the July 3 release of a five-page investigation report.

School District Attorney Dick Lyons, Connelly and Troeger provided statements to Rhodes, which are included in the transcripts document.

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“To understand the e-mail controversy, I think it’s important to explain what was going on behind the scenes,” Troeger said in his statement.

Connelly also tried to provide background and context to the controversy with her statement to Rhodes.

Howell is on vacation in Canada, but said by phone Monday night that she has not had a chance to read the transcripts and she was unaware the interviews would be posted online.

“I have access to e-mail, but I’m going to wait until I can print it out to read it,” she said. “I’ll review it and if a comment is warranted I’ll have something to say.”

Howell previously said that she has put the e-mail controversy behind her and she is looking forward to focusing on new projects in the district.

The board is scheduled to meet with Howell in executive or secret session on Wednesday. Connelly said the board will issue a public statement following the session.

The School Board last week released Rhodes’ investigation report that stated Howell could have done more to prevent the public release of e-mails sent by DeVincentis while he was principal at Strawberry Park Elementary. However, the report also states that Howell had the right to access DeVincentis’ computer.

Rhodes also found that DeVincentis violated school policies by sending and receiving personal e-mails on his work computer and that he did not have a right of privacy when the e-mails were retrieved. He also found that Gleason violated school policies by giving the e-mails to the newspaper.

The release of the e-mails led to a recall petition to oust DeVincentis from his School Board seat. Former School Board president Paula Stephenson and board member Pat Gleason are leaders in the recall petition campaign waged by a group calling itself the Save Our Schools RE-2.

Both Stephenson and Gleason, who had left the board prior to the investigation, were asked to be interviewed by Rhodes. They both refused.

Recall election could come early

A recall of Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis could go before voters in September.

Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland confirmed Monday that, because of election regulations and potential timetables, Colorado statutes could require a recall election in September, rather than in November’s coordinated election as originally planned.

“We’re probably going to have an election in September, if the (recall) petition is found to be sufficient,” Weinland said. “We’re checking petition signatures feverishly.”

On July 2, a committee known as Save Our Schools RE-2 submitted more than 2,300 signatures to Weinland, in an effort to place a recall of DeVincentis on the ballot. The committee needs 1,933 valid signatures to force a vote.

Weinland’s office has 10 working days to verify the signatures. With the July 4 holiday, July 17 is the deadline for verification. Should enough signatures be valid, there is a protest period of 15 calendar days. That period would end Aug. 1. If no eligible voters protest the petition, Colorado statutes require that a recall election must occur between 30 and 60 days after the protest period ends.

A recall vote also can occur in a coordinated election, however, if that election is within 90 days after the protest period. Ninety days after Aug. 1 is November 1 – several days short of this year’s Nov. 6 Election Day.

Weinland said if the variables fall into place and a recall election is required in September, absentee voting would be allowed, but there would be no early voting and fewer polling locations.

“We would do it as inexpensively as we possibly could for the school district I’ve never done a recall election,” Weinland said.

A September ballot would contain only two questions – whether to recall DeVincentis, and if so, which candidate should replace him on the School Board.