When Jefferson County residents petitioned to recall three members of the Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education, they alleged “wast[ing] millions of dollars” as one of the main reasons for the recall.
However, according to information provided by the Jeffco Clerk and Recorder’s office and the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, it appears the recall itself will be costing Jeffco money. Additionally, documents obtained by Complete Colorado indicate a recent announcement the election will be held on Nov. 3, may have been premature.
Jeffco clerk Faye Griffin announced Thursday the election will be part of the November coordinated election. However, she is still determining final cost and who exactly will have to pay, said Beth Clippinger, Griffin’s executive assistant.
According to Clippinger, the costs come partly from the additional questions on the ballot and the additional voting centers required for a recall under state law.
Under that law the county would have to supply seven voting centers in addition to the already planned five. Exactly how much those centers will cost is unknown. Additionally, Clippinger said they still don’t know if the questions will be added to the bottom of the planned ballot, placed on the backside of the ballot, or put onto their own separate ballot.
Griffin may be facing other problems according to a letter sent to her late Thursday from Secretary of State Wayne Williams.
In the letter, Williams says he is concerned with Griffin’s attempt to make the recall a part of the Nov. 3 election. He included calendars and other timelines under state law (calendar 1, calendar 2).
“As the state’s chief election official, I am also obligated to ensure the integrity and uniformity of November’s statewide coordinated election in all 64 counties,” Williams wrote. “To that end I am concerned about your recently announced plans for conducting the recall and its potential to impact the coordinated election.”
Williams went on to outline his concerns and to inform Griffin she needs to provide him with specific information about the mail ballot plan to mitigate risks.
Also, despite the belief and information put out by the recall proponents, officials in both the Jeffco Clerk’s office and the Secretary of State’s office have confirmed this year’s election will still cost taxpayers extra because of the recall.
It’s not clear who exactly will pay that bill. Clippinger said Griffin has not decided if the cost will be charged entirely to the Jeffco schools or if she can spread the cost out among all the entities that are a part of the coordinated election. Depending on final election costs and Griffin’s decision regarding payment responsibility, Jeffco schools could be faced with added cuts to next year’s budget.
Williams also stated in his letter that “Your [Griffin’s] limited window for setting the recall election date presents challenges no matter which date you choose,” Williams said. “…I am specifically concerned about your intent to include the coordinated content and the recall content on a single ballot.”
Successor candidates must submit their signed petitions to be on the ballot no later than 37 days before election day, which means those petitions are due by Sept. 28. According to Clippinger, as of Thursday, none of the five candidates who have announced have done so. “Because of this timeline, you will need near-optimal circumstances to place both the recall and coordinated content on the same ballot and meet the ballot-mailing deadline,” Williams said.
Williams also asked for a contingency plan in the event of a candidate-petition challenge, lawsuit, vendor error or other unforeseen incident, among other things.
Three Jeffco residents—Wendy McCord , Michael Blanton, and Tina Gurdikian—filed recall request documents with the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder’s office in July. They cited money complaints about the new superintendent’s salary, the hiring of Brad Miller – counsel to the board – and setting aside $7.4 million over the past two years to equalize funding for students in the district’s 16 charter schools.
When questioned in July about the possible cost of the election, McCord adamantly disagreed with the estimate, saying her group timed it perfectly so that it would not cost the district anything. Only a challenge to the recall petitions would cause the election to be pushed past the November date and cost the district any money, the group said.
“We have been told there will not be additional costs for the recall if we are on the November ballot with the existing school board election,” McCord said in a statement at the time through the group’s media contact, Lynea Hansen. She did not say who gave her the information that is now known to be wrong.
However, none of the three reform board members or their supporters challenged the petition, opting instead to have a dialogue with the community about what they have accomplished in their short time on the board.
The recall organizers’ slate of candidates declined to attend the first community forum about both the recall election, and the general election which was already slated to elect two new members to the board.
When questioned about the latest cost developments, Hansen said McCord was out of town and could not comment. Hansen offered a comment as spokeswoman for the group, but did not directly address the issue.
“We are very pleased to see the Jeffco Clerk was able to place the recall question on the November coordinated ballot,” Hansen said by email. “By combining the recall election and the coordinated election on one ballot they have found the most cost-effective way for Jeffco voters to be able to have a voice about the upcoming direction of their school board.”