The Colorado Supreme Court, on Monday, upheld the decision of a Broomfield court vacating a position on the Adams 12 Five Star Schools Board of Education.
The position is one voters elected a woman to in 2013 who was found to be ineligible to run before the election.
The court at that time ruled her opponent, Rico Figueroa (pictured), was not elected because he did not receive the majority of the votes, but he was allowed to retain the seat while the ruling was appealed.
The board will now have to declare it a vacancy and appoint someone by May 1 to fill the seat, a news release on the Adams 12 website said.
“As required by law, the Board of Education is expected to consider a resolution declaring the vacancy at its regular meeting on Wednesday at Horizon High School in Thornton,” the release said.
In the November 2013 election, candidate Amy Speers received thousands more votes than Figueroa, who was running for re-election after being appointed to the seat in January 2012.
However, a week before the election, Speers was declared ineligible because the district learned she did not live in District 4, the district she was running in. Speers said the discrepancy was a mistake. District lines redrawn in 2012 placed Speers’ home out of the district, but she didn’t realize it until it was too late and ballots had been mailed.
Despite being declared ineligible, Speers refused to withdraw from the race and urged voters to vote for her to make a point.
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler issued an emergency ruling that prevented clerks from counting Speers’ votes, but a legal challenge initiated by the Adams County teachers union overturned Gessler. It, too, was upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court.
After the election, the Broomfield judge ruled Figueroa was not legally elected because he did not receive the most votes and Speers was never deemed unqualified by a court prior to the election.
He also said Figueroa should have been aware of his opponent’s eligibility sooner because he was on the board that approved changing the district maps.
Figueroa was allowed to hold the seat during an appeal brought by Figueroa and several others.
Brian Vande Krol, who was named on the appeal, said at the time that two wrongs did not make a right.
“Just because the ineligible candidate may have made an honest mistake in her filing for the District 4 seat, doesn’t mean thousands of votes for the only eligible candidate should be cast aside,” he said at the time.
None of the parties were available for comment.
At the time of the appeal, plaintiffs’ attorney Mario Nicolais said he could see a dangerous red flag in the judge’s logic.
“Under the reasoning in this ruling, nobody would be deemed ‘elected’ by a plurality anymore,” he said. “Unlike places like Louisiana and Mississippi which do require a majority, we have no runoff system. Consequently, the case throws elections into huge chaos.”
The board must now determine the process for how to fill the vacancy. Figueroa could be reappointed. If it is not filled in 60 days, the president of the board must appoint someone to fill the position. Anyone appointed will have to run for re-election in November. The deadline for filling the vacancy is May 1. The board will have four members until it is filled.
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