Ben DeGrow, Education, Featured, K-12 Transparancy, PERA, Sherrie Peif, Thompson, Top News

Thompson school board member hosts event that may be in violation of Colorado's open meetings law

Thompson School District Board of Education member and anti-reformer Denise Montagu announced her intentions to run for re-election this fall at a “kick off” event on Thursday in empty office space off Cleveland Avenue in Loveland.

Montagu, who was elected to the TSD board in 2011, is quick to remind everyone multiple times at board meetings the purpose behind Proposition 104 but seemed to have missed other key parts of Colorado’s open meetings law.  It’s possible her announcement violated the basic premise of it.

Montagu was joined there by two of her fellow board members, but she didn’t announce the meeting 24 hours in advance through the district’s legal channels, and the meeting was not open to the public.

“The open meetings law requires that when three or more members meet and public business is discussed, the meeting must be open to the public at all times,” said Brad Miller, the attorney for the Thompson school board.

Montagu did not return requests for interview from Complete Colorado.

The invitation to “Thompson Values Education,” posted to Thompson Parents and Community’s Facebook page on Wednesday, was explicit that the event concerned the Thompson school district: “Please join me for an important community conversation about Thompson and education in Loveland, Berthoud and Fort Collins,” the post read.

Montagu has repeatedly accused Miller of conspiring behind closed doors with board president Bob Kerrigan and fellow member Bryce Carlson to form a new Memorandum of Understanding during teacher’s negotiations. Yet she held her rally on Thursday with both Lori Hvizda Ward and Pam Howard present.

Additionally, her supporters escorted one woman out of the building when they learned she was not a supporter.

Nancy Rumfelt said based on the information on the Facebook page, she thought it was a community meeting on education, which is why she chose to go. While there, she spoke with Howard and several private supporters, one of whom gave the opening remarks and called Montagu “a hero who is honest, trustworthy and won’t hide behind an attorney or cut off debate,” Rumfelt said.

Montagu is best known for her disruptive behavior at board meetings where she frequently shouts over other board members, cuts them off in mid-sentence, and speaks out of turn, refusing to follow Roberts Rules of Order.

Rumfelt said she also spoke at the event with Janice Marchmann, who lost to Carlson in the last election. Marchmann initially didn’t say anything to Rumfelt about her presence, but while she was walking around talking to people, a second woman approached her, told her she needed to leave and after Marchmann agreed, escorted Rumfelt to the door.

Several aspects of the event are suspect.

First, Colorado law provides leeway in that board members can run into each other on a chance meeting, without being in violation. However, the chance meeting must be public. When Rumfelt was escorted out of the building the event was no longer public. So Howard, Ward, and Montagu being together at closed event appears to be in violation of the law.

Second, Montagu’s failure to have the district announce the meeting 24 hours in advance via its normal public channels makes it an illegal board meeting.

Finally, the nature of the event was to discuss the future of Thompson School District, and conversation about the district among three or more board members is not to be held except in open session.

Miller said the district may not have been aware of the meeting.

“District administration has been diligent to publicly post notice when three or more board members may be together, even on occasions where the gatherings are not formal meetings, such as the student rally last Monday,” Miller said.

 

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