In a last-minute special meeting on Thursday, the Douglas County School District Board of Education took 20 minutes to accept board member Doug Benevento’s resignation and put in place a process to replace him.
In an unusual twist after the board’s 3-3 failure to accept his resignation and begin the process of filling the vacancy on Tuesday, Benevento himself was on the phone to act as a tie-breaking fourth vote if necessary.
The resolution accepting his resignation and outlining the process for replacement passed 6-1. Board member David Ray was the lone no vote.
Under Colorado statute, when a board member resigns the board has 60 days to find a replacement. If one cannot be found, the board president can appoint one without board approval.
The 60-day clock was expected to begin the day the resignation was submitted. Although Benevento submitted his resignation on Aug. 17th to board President Meghann Silverthorn by email and she relayed that news to other members, Complete Colorado reported Wednesday that the three minority members of the board—David Ray, Anne-Marie Lemieux, and Wendy Vogel—refused to accept the resignation or approve the resolution because Benevento didn’t send his 14-word resignation letter to all of them.
They argued the resignation wasn’t for the right reasons and accused Silverthorn of orchestrating the entire event so a replacement would have — what they called — an unfair advantage of running as an incumbent in the 2017 election. Silverthorn has maintained that she encouraged Benevento to finish the final year of his term.
The three were also frustrated that they weren’t consulted on the wording of the resolution detailing how the process on how to fill Benevento’s seat. Major components of the process are outlined in board policy and by state statute.The resolution does contain a few additions to guide the board through selection and appointment.
Silverthorn pressed Vogel on Tuesday to say what she didn’t agree with in the resolution. However, Vogel repeatedly said that Silverthorn needed to follow board policy and state law. After Silverthorn wouldn’t stop pressing for specific concerns, Vogel admitted there was nothing wrong with the resolution. She still voted no.
On Thursday, after more discussion, the board passed an amendment to the resolution changing the language to indicate that Benevento’s resignation was submitted Aug. 17 and accepted Sept. 8. Silverthorn and Benevento voted no on the amendment.
The three minority members also proposed dividing the resolution into two separate resolutions, one to accept Benevento’s resignation and one to accept the process of putting a new member in place. However, Silverthorn ruled that a division would violate Robert’s Rules of Order, the parliamentary system used by school boards in Colorado.
Ray questioned that the appointed member could theoretically hold office for nine years, instead of the eight under two terms, implying that such a situation violated the intent of term limitations.
“If you wish to use that as a justification to vote against this resolution, you may,” Silverthorn ruled that, term-limitation laws take into consideration this scenario and there is nothing the board can do legally to avoid someone serving for nine years if that were to happen.
The board ultimately passed the resolution accepting Benevento’s resignation and adopting the replacement process 6-1. Ray was the loan vote. He was chosen to work with Silverthorn to call for applications.
In order to be considered candidates must be
- An eligible elector and resident of the school district for at least twelve prior consecutive months
- Be a resident of Director District E
- Not have been convicted of, pled guilty or no contest to, or received a deferred judgment or sentence for sexual offense against a child.
The full resolution with requirements are online at the Dougco school website. Applications are due by midnight on Sept. 21.
If a candidate is not selected by the board after 60 days, Silverthorn alone may appoint one on Nov. 7.
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