The recall campaign of Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education President Ken Witt took an unusual twist today.
Witt announced this morning to a handful of media members that he has filed a complaint with the Colorado Ethics Commission—against himself.
Witt is one of three members of the Jeffco board who are subjects of a recall effort in the upcoming general election. He said he is tired of refuting a claim by his opponents that simply is not true.
Since no one from Jeffco United appears willing to file for the relief, Witt decided to do it himself to get the truth out.
“According to the language they have placed on the official ballot, we reform board members have violated open meetings laws,” Witt said. “They assert we’ve broken the law. Breaking state law, especially one to ensure transparent government like our sunshine law, is unacceptable, and simply must never be tolerated.”
The statement stems from the hiring of board attorney Brad Miller. Organizers claim recall subjects Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams were part of a closed-door meeting that hired Miller soon after they took office. Terms for the other two members of the board Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman expire this year and neither is running for re-election.
Witt said it is time an independent party investigate the claim and put the rumor to rest once and for all. He said he doesn’t understand if the issue is important enough for a group of residents to force an election that will cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars, why didn’t one of them file a complaint.
“I fully understand that the recallers are free to say anything, and I do mean anything, on the ballot — whether it is truth, fiction or complete fantasy,” Witt said. “That’s their legal right. And while some might say lying directly on a ballot would be, oh, disrespectful, I can’t believe they’d put down an accusation without standing behind it completely.”
Most importantly, Witt said, is they could have saved taxpayers possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars months ago had they invested less than $1.
This recall election will cost the district between $100,000-$200,000,” Witt said. “That’s money that won’t go to our classrooms and our students. They have spent well over $100,000 gathering tens of thousands of signatures. … But not one is brave enough to sign a complaint? Out of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have spent, they couldn’t spend the 49 cents for the stamp to send a complaint? And they accuse us of wasting money.”
Witt made the announcement at the Sheraton Denver West Hotel in Lakewood.
“I have asked the Commission to investigate this charge and give me an opinion if the law has been violated,” he said. “Yes, this is ridiculous — an elected official filing an ethics complaint against himself. But sadly, this empty, ridiculous accusation requires an equally ridiculous action to shed light onto the truth. I am not seeking to be exonerated, because there is simply nothing to be exonerated from. I’m just calling their bluff. The opponents of reform have preferred allegations because the truth doesn’t fit their narrative.”
According to a Denver Post report the filing “does not fall within the jurisdiction of the EIC because it is outside the statute of limitations and does not encompass what an advisory opinion seeks to clarify.”
Witt pointed out that all of the accusations used for the recall have been proven false, and it was time to prove this false also.
“For example, the Denver Post has already reported the silly charge that our Superintendent is making $80,000 more than his predecessor is patently false,” Witt said. “ … This is a serious charge of unlawful behavior, and it is now going to be printed on an official election ballot. For this accusation to be taken seriously, a complaint should have been filed. Those who have built an entire, expensive election around this baseless accusation haven’t the courage of their convictions enough to file any complaint against us.”
Witt said it’s time to return to the critical focus of improving student achievement in the district.
“By continuing the reforms this board has begun,” Witt said. “We must continue the work. Our achievements include expanding school choice, building a school with no debt, ensuring that performance matters so that we have an effective teacher in every classroom and recognizing and rewarding our great teachers.”
Jeffco United spokeswoman Lynea Hansen called it a stunt. Witt said it was about putting an end to the baseless accusation and moving on.
“Let’s make Jeffco students’ success the focus. And lets keep moving forward. So that my granddaughter who will soon be in Jeffco schools gets the best education we can provide.”
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