Senator Andy Kerr and Representative Tracy Kraft-Tharp attempted to give a voice to the voters of Jefferson County but partisan politics eliminated our voice!
We were extremely disheartened to see a potential Bill be immediately sent to the kill committee last week. Senate Bill 16-101, sponsored by Senator Andy Kerr and House Representative Tracy Kraft-Tharp, would have created a school board ethics commission.
A simple code of ethics for school board members and a committee to oversee would have done wonders for the parents and community in Jeffco had it existed just a few years ago. Here’s the synopsis as written:
The bill creates the school board ethics commission (commission)
as a type 1 commission within the department of education.
The commission consists of 5 members appointed by the general
assembly, the governor, and the state board of education.
The bill includes requirements relating to commission membership.
Any person may file a complaint alleging that a member of the governing board of a school district, district charter school, institute charter school, or board of cooperative services that operates a school (board member), has violated a state statute, code, standard, or rule within the commission’s jurisdiction.
The commission may hear complaints relating to alleged violations
by board members of:
- The code of ethics for school board members created in the bill;
- The conduct of school board meetings;
- School board bylaws relating to the conduct of board members;
- Statutes relating to ethics in government;
- Statutes relating to open meetings;
- The “Colorado Open Records Act”; and
- Any other provisions of state law that relate to ethical codes, standards, or rules that are applicable to board members.
The bill authorizes the commission to take all actions necessary to
carry out its duties, including, among others, receiving, reviewing, and
investigating complaints; issuing findings of fact and conclusions of law; and imposing sanctions if violations are found. The commission shall promulgate rules relating to its duties.
The bill includes procedures relating to complaints filed with the
commission. Once filed, the commission determines whether there is
probable cause to sustain the complaint. The complaint and response are confidential until probable cause has been determined. If there is probable cause, the commission refers the matter to an administrative law judge for hearing and issuance of findings of fact. The commission then makes written findings of fact and conclusions of law. If a violation is found, the commission shall determine the sanction, which may include civil penalties or fines, equitable relief, censure, and the award of attorney’s fees. Complainants may appeal decisions to the district court.
The commission may dismiss frivolous complaints and impose a
fine of not more than $500.
The bill establishes a code of ethics for school board members.
***Our highlights in blue show how an additional tool for community members would have been a benefit.
Can you imagine how this Bill would have protected parents, communities, teachers, and students? Can you imagine what a resource like this could do to ensure transparency, accountability, fiscal responsibility and respect? Can you imagine how a law like this would have positively changed all of our lives if it had existed just a few years ago?
But, it was introduced on January 29th, 2016 and your Colorado Senate immediately sent it to the kill committee without any consideration. Think about how your legislators just treated you, the voters of Jefferson County, who overwhelmingly voted to recall 3 school board members for exactly these reasons! Elections matter!
Our thanks go to Senator Andy Kerr and Representative Tracy Kraft-Tharp for attempting to protect the students, parents, and community with this wonderful piece of legislation. You both clearly Support Jeffco Kids!
And to those legislators who didn’t support this Bill – why would you not want this important piece of legislation in place to protect us? You are supposed to represent US! All voters deserve transparency, accountability and respect!
Thank you Senator Kerr and thank you Representative Kraft-Tharp!