By: Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver
(Castle Rock, CO) Douglas County school district’s board of education directors Mike Peterson, Christy Williams, Becky Myers, and Kaylee Winegar rejected a settlement offer that would’ve put a year-long lawsuit behind them earlier this week.
The lawsuit, filed by Rep. Robert Marshall (D-Highlands Ranch), alleges the four directors violated Colorado Open Meeting laws when they held a series of one-on-one discussions outside of public view that led to the firing of former superintendent Corey Wise.
The settlement would’ve required the four directors to admit those conversations were illegal, something none of them was willing to do.
Williams said, “I have maintained for over a year now that I didn’t do anything illegal.” She said she’d never advise her child to admit guilt when they didn’t feel guilty, nor would she expect a student in the district to do the same just to take the easy way out.
Myers admits to telling Williams after a board meeting in early 2022, “That was a sh-t show, and apparently, it’s not going to work with us and Corey Wise.” But she said she never discussed how anyone else felt.
Winegar also appeared visibly upset with Marshall for pursuing the lawsuit and said the cost to taxpayers is on him.
“To hear you say it was okay for you to have conversations about the superintendent and that those didn’t violate the spirit of doing district business in public is hard for me to understand,” said Director David Ray.
“I would go back in time and do things completely differently,” said Peterson. Yet, he stated he couldn’t admit to guilt where there was none.
A court ruled in March of 2022 that there was enough evidence to support that the four members broke Colorado meeting laws, intentionally or not. The judge placed a preliminary injunction directing the board to follow the law. That injunction still stands.
Costs continue to mount
Invoices obtained through public information requests show the district has paid more than $180,000 to attorneys at Gessler Blue, LLC and Hall & Evans.
Had they agreed to the settlement, they would’ve also had to pay $66,000 to cover Marshall’s attorney’s fees, something they could still be required to do if they lost in court.
“Let’s be real,” said Ray. “...we are on our way to spending $250,000 of district funds on this issue,” he said.
Director Elizabeth Hansen, an attorney, said if the case goes to trial, the cost to the district would likely be double that. And while that money comes from a budget for legal services, anything left over at the end of the year is rolled over into something that goes to kids.
“We’re going at each other, and we are rewinding the progress we have made, said Hanson. She noted that a trial would be a media spectacle, forcing the community to relive that divisive time and taking the focus away from efforts to get more money for teachers and staff.
Director Susan Meek added, “Continuing the lawsuit is selfish, a waste of taxpayer money, takes resources away from students, and is just plain wrong.”