Nate Easley: Petition filed to recall Denver Public Schools board president

Update five: Recall proponents are hard at work gathering signatures. But it hasn't always been easy. See more below our fourth update.

Update four: The petition to initiate the recall process has been approved. See more below our third update.

Update three: The petitioners have refiled their request to initiate the recall process against Easley. See more below our second update.

Update two: The Denver Elections Division has rejected the recall request because the sample petition submitted along with it was not in the proper format. See more below our first update.

Update one: Nate Easley responds to the recall request. See his comments below the original item below.

Original item: Nate Easley, Denver Public Schools board president, hasn't had the easiest run. He's head of a board that's bitterly divided on many issues, and he's drawn criticism from the board's vocal minority -- and their supporters -- for not being the bridge-builder they thought he'd be.

And now, like member Andrea Merida before him, Easley is the target of a recall effort.

John McBride, who ran unsuccessfully for school board in 2007, filed a petition yesterday to attempt to recall Easley, who was elected in 2009 and named board president that same year. We left messages for McBride and Easley and will update this blog post when we hear back.

In the meantime, the group Democrats for Excellent Neighborhood School Education (also known DeFENSE Denver) sent out an e-mail about the recall. Here's a snippet:

The initial steps to put a recall of Nate Easley on the May ballot has started. A coalition of northeast Denver residents filed the following proposed language for the ballot:

We, the qualified voters of Denver Public School District 4, demand the recall of current elected Denver Public Schools Board of Education member Dr. Nate Easley. Our demand is based on Mr. Easley's activities related to conflicts of interest and allowing these to affect his representation of his District 4 constituency.

Specifically, Dr. Easley's roles as DPS Board of Education president and his job as Deputy Director of the Denver Scholarship Foundation make him subject to undue influence related to his votes as our representative. As a board member, Dr. Easley supervises the DPS superintendent, who also serves as on the DSF Board of Directors, thereby having direct influence over Dr. Easley's employment. As Deputy Director of DSF, Dr. Easley receives a substantial salary, the threat to which compromises his ability to independently represent District 4.

As a result, Dr. Easley has consistently voted for policies that are not reflective of his constituents' interests, closing schools, supporting an atmosphere of distrust among District employees, and failing to provide sound fiscal oversight of DPS monies.

The e-mail asks for help collecting signatures on the petition, if it's approved. And it announces that a training and information session will be held Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Oleta Crain Enrichment Academy Community Center at 2012 Marion Street.

The Denver Elections Division has until tomorrow to approve or reject the petition. If it gets the green light, McBride and the other petitioners will have sixty days to collect 5,363 signatures from voters in Easley's district of northeast Denver. If they succeed, a recall question will be placed on the May ballot. Voters will also be able to choose a replacement.

In Merida's case, the petitioners fell short of collecting the required signatures, and the recall effort was dropped. Will that happen again? Or will Easley face the ballot?

Update one: Nate Easley e-mailed us three comments in response to news that a constituent has filed a petition to begin the process of recalling him from the school board.

Here are Easley's comments:

I look forward to continuing to serve as board president and fight for great schools.

I'm proud of the continued progress our board has seen in DPS schools over the past year, especially in strengthening existing schools and expanding the number of great options available to Denver families.

Voting to maintain the status quo is easy! Our board has made some tough and bold decisions to ensure that progress continues, (i.e., turnarounds, new schools, co-locations). I am interested in providing Denver families with high-quality school options in every neighborhood. Doing so requires putting children ahead of politics.

Update two: In a letter sent to petitioner McBride (and Easley) late this afternoon, Denver Elections Division staff explains that the sample petition submitted by McBride contained several errors. Among them: He did not print the warning against petition fraud in boldface type, he did not properly draw up an affidavit for each petition-gatherer to sign, and the signature block was not large enough for legible signatures.

McBride has the option of resubmitting his recall paperwork with the errors corrected. We'll let you know if he does. But for now, at least, Easley's position appears safe.

Update three: At around 11:30 a.m. Monday, the petitioners refiled their request to initiate the recall process against Easley, said Denver Elections Division spokesman Alton Dillard. The division now has 48 hours to determine whether the petition is in the proper format. If so, the petitioners would have sixty days to collect the required 5,363 signatures.

But that may not be enough, according to Dillard. "If the proponents are able to obtain the required signatures, the question of appearing on the May election ballot is looking unlikely due to a variety of interlocking legal deadlines including when potential successors would have to file candidate petitions," he said in an e-mail.

Stay tuned for an update on whether the petition is valid, a ruling on which is expected Wednesday, and what that means for the election timeline.

Update four, Wednesday, January 26, 2 p.m.: The Denver Elections Division has approved the petition to initiate the recall process. The petitioners now have sixty days to collect 5,363 signatures, which represents 40 percent of the people who voted in Easley's school board race in November 2009, when he was elected.

Update five, Thursday, February 3, 3:15 p.m.: Recall proponents have until the end of March to collect 5,363 signatures from voters in northeast Denver in order to put a recall of Easley on an upcoming, as-yet-undetermined ballot. According to one signature-gatherer, the group has "close to a thousand so far." But, he adds, "The cold isn't helping."

Another signature-gatherer, Ray Traudt, says he's gotten some static from store managers who won't allow him to solicit signatures from their shoppers. In an e-mail, Traudt writes:

I got a rude awakening last Saturday. ... Went to Wal-Mart on Tower Rd., just over south into Aurora, but the manager said that Wal-Mart does not allow such things in front of their store - or in their very large parking lot region.

Then went back up to 48th to the King Soopers on Tower Rd., where a manager said I'd have to wait until the youngsters in front of the store (selling candy) left. Meanwhile, I went over to the west to Safeway on Chambers, where the manager said to contact Safeway's public affairs after the weekend. Then, back to King Soopers to wait. After the kids selling candy had left, I went back in to say I was back, but was told that, come to find out, gathering petition signatures was not allowed in front of their store after all.

That was quite a deflating experience. I have observed some (to me) sleazy petitions being gathered in front of stores elsewhere. Maybe my error was to ask.

On Monday, I called Safeway at the number provided, but have not talked to someone there. And I called King Soopers' main office in Denver. Come to find out, King Soopers does consider allowing activity in front of their stores.There is a provision for an incorporated non-profit organization to submit, well ahead of time, a request for consideration. That may be a very orderly corporate way of doing things, but it is so distant from my image of stores of my younger years that I am having difficulty dealing with it so far.

And this continuing sub-zero weather is not helping.

Yesterday, I spoke with someone at Safeway (public affairs), and she said that we could at times be outside of their stores in Near NE Denver (at Washington) and in Far NE Denver (on Chambers), with only a few rules that we might have nominated ourselves. That was uplifting.

Only 4,363 more signatures to go.

More from our Education archive: "Brett Reese and Laura Boggs, school board members, just can't control their crazy lately."

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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