Adams 12 school board seat declared vacant by judge in ongoing drama over who won election
No one won the election.
That's the opinion of the Broomfield District Court judge tasked with sorting out last November's Adams 12 Five Star school board election, in which ineligible candidate Amy Speers earned two-thirds of the vote and eligible candidate Rico Figueroa earned a third. Both were running to represent District 4, but election officials discovered that due to some recent redistricting, Speers no longer lived within the District 4 boundaries. She refused to drop out of the race, however, and ended up earning the most votes. Now, a Broomfield judge has declared the seat vacant.
"In this case, the votes were counted and Figueroa was defeated by a nearly two-to-one margin," Judge Chris Melonakis wrote in an order (on view below). "The Court finds as a matter of fact and concludes as a matter of law that he was not legally elected to the office. The voters in his district expressed a clear intent not to elect him."
Instead, they wanted to elect Speers. But since she's ineligible, Melonakis concluded that "a vacancy exists in the position for Director District 4 to be filled as provided by law."
It will now be up to the current school board to appoint someone to fill that slot. But Adams 12 spokesman Joe Ferdani says the board is waiting to see if Figueroa files an appeal of the judge's ruling. He has twenty days, until July 31, to do so. If he doesn't appeal, Ferdani says the board will outline a process for appointing someone, solicit applications and interview candidates. It has sixty days to fill the position. Anyone who lives in District 4, including Figueroa, could apply.
As for the appeal, Figueroa's attorney, Mario Nicolais, says his client is still weighing his options. According to Nicolais, he and Figueroa are happy that the judge found that Speers is ineligible to serve but displeased that he found that Figueroa lost the election, even though he was the second-highest vote-getter. Nicolais disagrees with the judge's interpretation that votes for Speers were essentially votes against Figueroa.
"That's not the way elections work," Nicolais says. "It's who has the most votes for them."
The drama surrounding the Adams 12 school board race has been going on since Election Day 2013, when Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler issued an emergency rule at 5:19 p.m. that blocked Speers's votes from being counted.
A group of eight citizens filed a lawsuit against Gessler, alleging that the emergency rule went against the law. They argued Speers's votes should be counted -- and that if she won, the District 4 seat should be declared vacant.
On November 18, Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt sided with the eight citizens. Within the next few days, the counties that comprise Adams 12 released the vote totals: Speers earned 24,169 votes compared to Figueroa's 14,081.
But Gessler wasn't happy with Hyatt's ruling and appealed it to the Colorado Supreme Court. On April 7, the high court found that Gessler's rule was improper and that Speers's votes should have indeed been counted. However, the justices did not opine on whether Figueroa won the election. They left that decision up to the district court and Melonakis.
Nicolais says his client will likely decide whether to appeal by the end of this week.
Read Melonakis's ruling below.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.
- Readers: Here's Why the NFL Won't Lift Its Marijuana Ban
- Celebrating the Ten Best Green Chile Places in Denver Right Now
- Denver Development: What Will Happen to Emily Griffth School on Prime City Block?