Jefferson County school board members on Thursday censured one of their own – board member Laura Boggs – for “unethical behavior” after Boggs reportedly threatened to derail a $32.8 million federal grant and to “tear this county apart.”
The threats, relayed by Superintendent Cindy Stevenson after a meeting between the two on Dec. 10, were described by board members as just the latest in a string of inappropriate behavior by Boggs since her 2009 election.
“I believe that if we don’t do something now we’re going to be looking at three more years of this and I think that is not acceptable,” board member Paula Noonan said before the 4-0 vote to censure.
Boggs, who was not allowed to vote on the censure motion, said Stevenson’s characterizations of their meeting as described in a Dec. 13 letter to board members are “grossly misstated.”
“Do I think it was a nice meeting? Absolutely not,” Boggs said, adding that she believed a ‘he said, she said’ rebuttal was pointless. “I am going to … vehemently deny the accusations in that letter.”
A censure is essentially a formal public rebuke of Boggs but it carries no other weight. Noonan proposed also removing Boggs from committees on which she serves as a board representative but delayed that motion until January.
Boggs declined comment today, citing the board’s policy of having its president, Dave Thomas, deal with press inquiries. She typically has declined to discuss reports of her impropriety with the media for that reason.
Shortly before Thursday’s board vote, a community group led by Jeffco parent Eric Westerhausen called on board members to request Boggs’ resignation, saying they could no longer sit idly by while her behavior tarnished the reputation of the board and the district.
Westerhausen today called the censure “long overdue.”
“I originally voted for Laura Boggs and I think it’s a clear example of somebody who campaigns in a certain way to achieve kind of a centrist, populist view to get votes so that she gets in office,” he said. “Her actions certainly following that have not supported what we expect of an elected official in this county.”
Thursday’s call for Boggs’ resignation follows similar public speeches in past months.
Last March, Kerrie Dallman, head of the Jefferson County teachers’ union, called on board members to curb Boggs’ behavior. The union also began a newsletter called “Boggs Watch” to record her “rogue” antics.
In June, a group that included former state Sen. Norma Anderson and former school board member Hereford Percy registered complaints and one, Phyllis Albritton, requested a censure of Boggs.
Among the actions cited by Westerhausen, board members and others as inappropriate:
- Boggs voted with the rest of the board to oppose the anti-tax ballot initiatives 60, 61 and 101 but then publicly endorsed the measures
- Boggs publicly suggested the district refrain from hiring principals with young children
- Boggs entered a classroom at Green Mountain High School and, during a lesson, linked the words “school” and “stupid” on the white board
- Boggs inserted herself in individual school issues, including a contentious boundary dispute in Indian Hills
But Martin Richardson, an Indian Hills resident and key proponent of the boundary change, said Boggs neither orchestrated nor was heavily involved in the issue.
“We are in the district where she got elected. Isn’t she supposed to be part of that community and represent that community?” he said. “It’s insulting to me because we did all the work.”
Much of Thursday’s discussion, however, centered on what was said in the meeting between Boggs and Stevenson. In her letter, Stevenson wrote that Boggs said she was going to call Washington, D.C., in an attempt to endanger the district’s grant for teacher performance pay.
“If the allegation is that one board member was going to try to interfere with the largest grant this district has ever received, unilaterally… I am really concerned,” said Thomas, the board president.
“I am equally concerned that for the past 12 months, the dynamics of this board have changed dramatically … the relationships between board members and between at least one board member and the superintendent have become extremely acrimonious, in my opinion, and it has prevented this board from moving forward.”
It’s the first time a board member in the state’s largest school district has been censured, according to district spokeswoman Lynn Setzer.
Jeffco board members have asked a sitting board member to resign. That occurred in July 2008 when members asked for the resignation of Vince Chowdhury, after he entered a guilty plea to misdemeanor assault for slapping his teen-aged daughter.