Education

Two Douglas County School Board Members Under Investigation for Perjury

An investigation is underway to determine whether two members of the Douglas County School District's Board of Education, president Mike Peterson and District E director Christine Williams, committed perjury in testimony regarding the firing of superintendent Corey Wise in February.

"The 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has received multiple inquiries from citizens regarding allegations of perjury by members of the Douglas County Board of Education," says John Kellner, the 18th Judicial District Attorney and the 2022 Republican nominee for Colorado attorney general. "The Douglas County Sheriff's Office is aware of the allegations and currently has an open investigation. That agency will review the matter and, if appropriate, will forward the case to our office for further review."

Adds Douglas County Sheriff's Office public-information officer Cocha Heyden: "All I can tell you at this point is that we have received the information and will be looking into it."

Among those raising the perjury allegations against Peterson and Williams is Robert Marshall, a Douglas County resident who will also be on the November ballot; he's running as a Democrat for state representative in District 43. Just over a week after Wise's dismissal, Marshall filed a lawsuit against the school district and board, alleging that Peterson, Williams and colleagues Kaylee Winegar and Becky Myers had engineered the ouster through a series of one-on-one meetings that violated Colorado Open Meetings Law — an assertion that prompted a Douglas County judge to issue a preliminary injunction banning the practice following a February 25 hearing during which both Peterson and Williams testified.

The claims of perjury are based on an audio recording made by Wise during a meeting with Peterson and Williams at a coffee shop on January 28, several days before he was given his walking papers. According to a summary that Marshall provided Westword, the recording makes it "absolutely clear that Peterson told Wise that all four of the newly elected 'Kids First' directors (Peterson, Williams, Myers and Winegar) were 'absolutely committed' to terminating his contract. This shows, indisputably, that Peterson perjured himself when he testified under oath in an open court proceeding...when he emphatically declared 'nor did we ask [Wise] to resign at that meeting' and 'we did not ask him to resign immediately. We asked him to consider a variety of options.' This is absolutely false. The audio is clearer at some points than others, but one can readily hear Peterson and Williams telling Wise on a Friday morning that he must resign by Tuesday evening after he came back from a planned family vacation. And if he didn’t, they would terminate him for cause."

In Marshall's view, this isn't the only example of perjury. He contends that "there are numerous points of absolute contradiction between the Wise tape and the testimony, under oath, of Peterson and Williams. These contradictions were so obvious during the court hearing, where any reasonably objective person knew they were lying, that Peterson and Williams’s attorney had to argue to the court that the judge should believe what they were saying under oath that day and not what they had previously told two other directors who were not privy to the conversation...since Peterson and Williams did not know they were being recorded by those directors and were not under oath then when they made their statements."

Listen to the recording here:
In response to Marshall's claims, Gessler Blue Law, the firm led by former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler that represents Peterson, Williams and the board as a whole in regard to the lawsuit, issued a June 28 press release titled "Democratic Candidate Again Seeks to Derail Douglas County School Board Unity."

"These are baseless accusations and part of a string of baseless lawsuits,” attorney Geoff Blue, Gessler's partner, says in the release. "The boardmembers were forthright and truthful about their work to replace the former school superintendent, both in court and in private conversations. Marshall used a secret tape recording to make wild claims of perjury. Our legal team reviewed the materials and found no wrongdoing."

The release also includes quotes from Peterson and Williams.

"Unfortunately, it seems Mr. Marshall is more interested in derailing our efforts to improve education in
Douglas County,” Peterson says. "I’m staying focused on academic excellence, increasing teacher pay and ensuring we meet our mission and vision through commonsense initiatives."

"These latest accusations are yet another attempt to redirect attention away from the positive direction that has been established by this board," Williams adds. "I will not be distracted by his self-serving lawsuits, but I will continue to make student-centered decisions a priority in support of our outstanding students, parents and staff."

The Douglas County School District has not responded to Westword's request for comment on the perjury investigation. Click to read Robert Marshall v. Douglas County Board of Education, et al.