A Douglas County School Board candidate is accusing the district of violating the state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act, an allegation the board’s vice president said is frivolous and unfounded.
Julie Keim’s Oct. 17 complaint alleges the Douglas County School District used district resources to support its preferred candidates. In addition to the complaint, she also submitted to the Colorado Secretary of State documentation she says supports her claims.
Keim is among four candidates who believe major change is needed in the district. She is running against Judi Reynolds, who supports the current school board.
“This is a patently frivolous political stunt masquerading as a complaint,” school board vice president Kevin Larsen said.
Keim’s complaint alleges the school district is not providing all candidates with the same information, and that a host of individuals and organizations are actively supporting four pro-board candidates with campaign materials and advertisements.
In early October, Keim requested copies of emails exchanged between the district’s cabinet-level staff, school board members, Douglas County Educational Foundation board members and the alleged supporters – including Americans for Prosperity, the Independence Institute and campaign contributors Alex Cranberg and Ralph Nagel, among others.
DCSD legal counsel Rob Ross emailed Keim on Oct. 14 that a search found more than 13,000 emails, including the approximately 46 individuals and organizations she listed.
“The enormous volume of emails between DCSD cabinet-level personnel and political groups that are supporting the current school board race is evidence of a violation of the (Fair Campaign Practices Act),” she wrote in her complaint.
Ross wrote that the number “does not represent ‘political’ communications between the individuals or groups named,” only matches to Keim’s search parameters.
Keim so far has received 101 of the 13,000 emails.
“I think they’re trying to delay so nothing can be exposed before the election,” Keim said.
Larsen said staff’s response has been timely, and that Keim is abusing district resources.
“Ms. Keim expects district staff to spend their days as her personal research team rather than having them focus on the business of educating our more than 65,000 students,” he wrote. “This is inexcusably aggressive behavior by a candidate attacking the personnel of the district, and parent and community volunteers. If this candidate has an issue with the great direction Douglas County School District is headed, she can attack me and the rest of the board.”
Ross said time is needed for district employees to review each email and ensure it doesn’t include legally protected information. He estimated it would require a minimum of 54 hours and a total cost to Keim $1,060. Keim said she plans to pay the bill with personal, non-campaign funds.
“I won’t back down,” she said. “I want them to be open and honest and truly transparent about what is going on with all these organizations. It’s concerning to me so many people who are not local have such a voice in our future. As a parent and community member, I am disgusted at what’s happened to our school district.”