Brad Miller, the private attorney from Colorado Springs hired to represent two embattled Front Range school boards, resigned from one of them this morning.
Miller submitted his resignation to the Thompson School District Tuesday, effective November 25. That’s one week after new board members will be sworn in.
Last week’s election produced a dramatic shift in the makeup of the Thompson school board. Previously, conservative board members held a 4-3 advantage. The election shifted the board makeup to a 5-2 non-conservative majority.
In his notice, Miller said he appreciated the opportunity to work with the board on issues such as raising starting salaries for new teachers, increasing opportunities for citizen input and moving toward equal funding of charter schools. He also cited the ongoing legal battle with the Thompson Education Association, stating he was thankful for engaging in a “critical effort regarding the constitutional concept of local control.”
The new conservative board majority, elected in Nov. 2013, hired Miller in Feb, 2014. In making the case for Miller’s hiring on Dec. 11, 2013, Thompson Board President Bob Kerrigan (who did not run for re-election last week) reportedly said Miller was the board attorney for the Jefferson County School Board.
Except that decision hadn’t yet been made by the Jeffco board. As it turns out, only the conservative board majority of John Newkirk, Julie Williams and Ken Witt knew about Miller’s hiring prior to December 10th. They approved Miller’s hiring on a 3-2 vote on December 12, in a meeting that The Denver Post said appeared to skirt the state’s open meetings law.
All three board members were recalled by Jefferson County voters last week.
Miller’s firm, Miller Sparks of Colorado Springs, was the only one considered by the Jeffco and Thompson school boards.
The “constitutional concept of local control” refers to the ongoing legal battle between the Thompson board and its teachers union, the Thompson Education Association.
The Thompson board three times rejected a contract this year for teachers for the 2015-16 year. They’ve been working without one since the school year started.
An independent arbitrator, in a report on the negotiations in August, said the conservative board majority acted in bad faith, and that led the union to sue the board in Larimer District Court for breach of contract.
That court granted a temporary injunction to the union that would prevent the board from making policy changes while the lawsuit was wending its way through the system.
Those policy changes could include removing the teachers’ union as sole representative of teachers in the Thompson district. The union has negotiated on behalf of teachers since 1974, and more than 60 percent of the district’s teachers are union members.
Last month, the Colorado Court of Appeals put the temporary injunction on hold, pending the outcome of the breach-of-contract lawsuit that’s sitting in the Larimer County District Court. The decision reversed an earlier, unanimous one by the appeals court that said they wouldn’t get involved.
After Tuesday’s election, attorney Richard Rosenblatt, representing the Thompson Education Association, asked the appeals court to put the matter on hold until after the new board is sworn in, which will take place on November 18. Monday, the court agreed to do so, giving the new board 14 days after it is sworn in to review the issue.
Pam Howard, one of the Thompson board members re-elected last week, campaigned on getting rid of Miller. “Out-of-town board attorneys must be fired,” one of her campaign pieces said.
Howard told The Colorado Independent today that voters listened, got educated and got involved.
“It’s the dawning of a new era,” Howard said. “We’re cleaning house.”
As to his other client, the Jefferson County School Board, Miller has not made his future plans known, according to spokesperson Michelle Lyng.
Miller did not respond to a call for comment.
Photo credit: WoodleyWonderWorks, Creative Commons, Flickr.