Douglas County resident files another lawsuit against the school district over sunshine laws

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Douglas County School bus depot in Castle Rock, October 25, 2021.

The Douglas County School District faces another lawsuit over actions by the school board — specifically its four newest members. 

The lawsuit was filed yesterday against the district’s records manager asking a Douglas County District Court to require the records manager of Colorado’s third-largest district to explain why they won’t publicly share documents from a training retreat under the Colorado Open Records Act. 

According to the lawsuit, Mike Peterson, Becky Myers, Kaylee Winegar and Christine Williams, attended a private training retreat in Estes Park after they were elected but before they were sworn into office in November 2021. The documents that haven’t been shared publicly after a CORA request are training binders distributed at the gathering. 

The lawsuit states elected board members received a binder of documents about orientation and guidance on how they should conduct official school board business, including so-called sunshine laws that require certain meetings and documents to be public. 

Erin Kane, who was recently appointed as the Douglas County School District superintendent, and attorney Will Trachman also attended the two-day retreat, according to the lawsuit. Kane reportedly gave a presentation about school financing during the retreat.

Weeks prior to the firing of former superintendent Corey Wise in February, Kane was rumored to have been a favorite choice among the board’s majority. Board president Mike Peterson said he reached out to Kane about the job a few weeks before the vote to terminate Wise.

“None of the new Directors have attended any other legal training sessions, such as the seminars for incoming directions provided by the Colorado Association of School Boards,” the lawsuit claims. It said the binders have been kept and used for guidance by the four new directors in their official school board functions.

“They are, therefore, public records,” according to the lawsuit. 

The district did not provide a comment on the lawsuit.

This is not the only lawsuit or complaint filed against the school district and the board. 

Wise filed a discrimination and retaliation complaint in April with federal and state offices against the school district and four board members. The complaint alleges that his termination was unlawful because of his attempts to protect students with disabilities and for his advocacy of the district’s equity policy.

Robert Marshall, who brought the suit over the training materials, also filed a lawsuit in February against four members of the school district’s board, alleging they broke Colorado’s open meetings law during discussions that led up to the termination of the superintendent. In that case, a Douglas County District Court granted a preliminary injunction in March against the four members of the county school board, forcing them to comply with Colorado’s open meetings law.

Denver attorney Steven Zansberg is representing Marshall in both lawsuits. Zansberg represents a number of Colorado news outlets, including Colorado Public Radio News.

CPR reporter Jenny Brundin contributed to this report.