Education

Dougco School Board Update: Perjury Investigation Dropped, Lawsuit Grinds On

Christy Williams, seen in a 2021 campaign video, has been cleared in a perjury investigation conducted by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
Christy Williams, seen in a 2021 campaign video, has been cleared in a perjury investigation conducted by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. Kids First DCSD via YouTube
As classes started this week in the Douglas County School District (despite nearly 500 open jobs), there were two major developments in the ongoing soap opera involving the Douglas County Board of Education.

First, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office dropped its perjury investigation into two boardmembers, Mike Peterson and Christy Williams, over testimony that they gave in court related to the February firing of superintendent Corey Wise. And second, Douglas County resident Robert Marshall, the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the board as a whole as well as Peterson, Williams and colleagues Kaylee Winegar and Becky Myers (Marshall is also the Democratic nominee for Colorado House District 43), formally replied to the defendants' argument against granting a summary judgment on his behalf. And its language is blunt.

The introduction to that August 11 document, titled "Plaintiff's Reply in Support of His Motion for Summary Judgment," asserts: "Defendants’ response shows their disregard for this Court’s prior rulings, and a willingness to mischaracterize the record evidence to create confusion, when the facts are unmistakably clear and undisputed."

In late June, the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office, led by DA John Kellner, the 2022 Republican nominee for Colorado attorney general, released a statement noting that it had "received multiple inquiries from citizens regarding allegations of perjury by members of the Douglas County Board of Education. 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."

The claims of perjury were 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."

Listen to the recording here:
In response to the probe, attorney Geoff Blue of 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 Marshall's lawsuit, issued a statement: "These are baseless accusations and part of a string of baseless lawsuits. 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."

Neither did the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, and in an August 10 response shared with Westword, Marshall made his displeasure clear.

"As expected, the Douglas County Sheriff Office has closed the perjury case against Peterson and Williams, saying that the charges are UNFOUNDED. This is not surprising at all. But it is disgusting. Everyone can look at the trial transcript and compare it to the tape Wise made and the actions and comments of Peterson and Williams. Any reasonably objective person can tell they lied. Under oath. But Kellner gave it to the DCSO to give him cover. For the DCSO to say that there is not even probable cause for a charge, but it is UNFOUNDED?!?!"

Marshall added: "It is also disgusting that they made this decision right at the start of the school year, too. It should have been determined in a week, but they waited on purpose to provide the maximum 'exoneration' to Peterson as possible."

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock issued the following statement about the perjury inquiry: "After conducting a full investigation along with consulting with the District Attorney’s Office, we have determined that no probable cause exists to indicate that there were any criminal elements present."

Meanwhile, the latest filing in the lawsuit contends that the manner in which Wise was sacked violated Colorado Open Meetings Law by way of the following five points: "(1) Four of the seven Directors met in a series of one-on-one discussions, outside of public view (and without public notice), at which (2) they discussed public business, their mutual desire to fire the superintendent; (3) two of them delivered an ultimatum to Superintendent Wise, captured on an audio recording: either he resign, effective immediately, or the Directors would initiate proceedings to terminate him for cause; (4) they also told Wise that if he did not agree to their request that he resign he’d potentially lose the rest of the year’s salary; and (5) at the public meeting conducted on February 4, 2022, no public discussion was allowed prior to those same four Directors simply rubber-stamping their prior decision to immediately terminate the Superintendent’s contract (albeit, without cause)."

And the drama continues. Click to read Robert Marshall v. the Douglas County Board of Education, et al., and the plaintiff's reply to his request in support of his motion for summary judgment
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts