Andrea Merida: Attempt to recall DPS board member fails, petitioners vow to try again

An attempt to recall Denver Public Schools board member Andrea Merida failed yesterday when a petition to initiate the process was rejected by the Denver Elections Division. According to division spokesman Alton Dillard, the petition was not in the proper format.

But one of the people behind the petition, Anita Banuelos, says the group plans to resubmit their petition in the proper format today.

The petition, which was submitted by three voters in Merida's district of Southwest Denver, asks that Merida be recalled on the grounds of "unethical conduct" and "unbecoming behavior." It says she breached the board's ethical and financial duties and violated the public's trust.

Banuelos says the recall effort was prompted partly by Merida's failure to disclose that she was a paid staffer for former U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff when she wrote an op-ed for the Denver Post in July that criticized comments made by Romanoff's opponent, Senator (and former DPS superintendent) Michael Bennet.

"I feel like she has a political agenda," Banuelos says. "She's always asking for transparency, transparency. But that's the pot calling the kettle black."

Merida says she always kept her political opinions separate from her work with DPS. Soon after the op-ed was published, she resigned from the Romanoff campaign and apologized for the non-disclosure in a blog post on her website.

As for the recall effort, Merida thinks it's more of a personal attack than a legitimate criticism of her performance on the board. She believes it stems from the fact that she declined to endorse the man who started the petition effort, Jose Silva, in his race for a state House seat in the most recent primary. "I feel like it's kind of retaliatory," she says.

If Banuelos and company resubmit the petition, the Elections Division will have 48 hours to approve it or reject it again. If it's approved, the petitioners will have sixty days to collect 4,032 signatures, which represents 40 percent of the people who voted in Merida's school board race in November 2009, when she was elected.

The division will check all 4,032 signatures against the statewide voter database. If they're legitimate, the question of whether to recall Merida will go to the ballot.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar