Updated March 7 – A committee funding the recall attempt of Denver Public Schools board president Nate Easley filed its first financial disclosure report, listing zero contributions, expenditures or loans. Take Back Our Schools missed its initial filing deadline. The report covers the period of Jan. 26 to Feb. 26.
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A committee funding the recall against Denver Public Schools board president Nate Easley missed its first campaign finance deadline Thursday, failing to file a report that would have listed dollars raised and spent.
“We don’t have any money to file anything,” said John McBride, the lead petitioner in the recall effort against Easley and the registered agent for the committee Take Back Our Schools. “We don’t have a bank account yet. All we have is people power.”
A committee supporting Easley filed its first report Feb. 16, listing $16,275 in contributions and no expenditures as of Feb. 11. Three of the five donors sit on the board of directors of the Denver Scholarship Foundation, where Easley is deputy director.
The largest single donation is $10,000 from David Scanavino, a retired doctor and foundation board member.
“Mostly I’m going to spread the word about why I vote the way I vote,” Easley said of his plans for the money. “In some ways, that’s the upside of this controversy. It’s going to give us an opportunity to go straight to voters to make the case for why the district needs to have better schools.”
Filing requirements, penalties
Easley is the registered agent for the committee, Easley 4 Better Schools, which filed registration papers with the secretary of state’s office Feb. 2. McBride registered his committee Feb. 16. State law requires committees to register within ten days of receiving contributions or making expenditures of more than $200 to support or oppose the recall.
Rich Coolidge, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said the penalty for missing a deadline is $50 per day. McBride’s committee deadline was 11:59 p.m. Thursday. A report is expected even if the committee did not receive contributions, Coolidge said.
McBride said he tried Wednesday to set up an account with Wells Fargo but that the bank was unable to find the committee ID number, which is listed on the secretary of state’s website. He said he planned to talk to state staffers Friday to straighten things out. He did not return a phone call requesting an update on Friday afternoon.
By law, the committees must file their first reports within 15 days of registration and then every 30 days afterward, until the date of the recall election is set.
‘We’re going to beat the deadline’
McBride and his supporters have until 5 p.m. March 29 to submit 5,363 signatures from registered voters living in Easley’s district in Far Northeast Denver.
“We’re doing really well,” McBride said, declining to specify an exact number of signatures gathered. “When we get in the door to talk to people, we’re doing really well … We’re going to beat the deadline.”
Once signatures are submitted, there will be a “protest window” for challenges, such as a claim the signatures aren’t valid, said Alton Dillard, spokesman for the Denver Elections Division.
If enough names are verified, then each candidate seeking to replace Easley must submit 50 signatures from the Far Northeast district.
Dillard said the recall ballot would contain two questions – whether Easley should be recalled and who should replace him.
Cost of recall estimated at $100,000
The names of replacement candidates must be released 67 days prior to the election, Dillard said, which is pushing any recall election beyond the May mayoral election.
“Everything is dictated by when the petitions get in the door,” he said. “There are a lot of interlocking deadlines.”
There is a chance a recall election could be combined with a runoff in the mayoral race. If not, Dillard said, a separate recall would cost an estimated $100,000 and the school district would get the bill.
McBride said that cost is a concern and members of the Northeast Community Congress for Education, the group he leads, would consider it.
“We know we can’t make it in May but we may make the runoff,” he said. “If not … we as an organization have to sit down and talk about that. In these economic times, it’s an issue we need to talk about. But education is important too.”
McBride, who ran unsuccessfully for the Denver school board in 2007, said he will not seek to replace Easley. He said he has talked to at least two potential candidates, though none are yet willing to go public.
Dueling campaigns take off
City elections officials approved the recall petition against Easley on Jan. 26. It was filed by McBride, as lead petitioner, and by retired DPS teacher Mary Titus Sam and Far Northeast Denver resident Marianne Castaneda, who has spoken out against the school district’s reform proposal for Montbello High School and five schools that feed into it.
McBride, who lives near Manual High School, was a vocal critic of the decision to shutter that school for a year before re-opening it in 2007 and growing it one grade at a time. He said he supported Easley during his 2009 election campaign because he believed Easley would be a “difference maker” and a positive influence on the board.
“I feel betrayed,” he said.
The Montbello reform plan didn’t spark the recall effort, he said, but it did push Montbello parents to come to NCCE meetings and “it became a general consensus that we had to do something.”
In the recall petition, McBride, Sam and Castenada contend Easley is voting against his constituents’ interest because of a conflict of interest – DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg is an ex-officio member of the board of directors of the Denver Scholarship Foundation, where Easley works.
Easley denies any conflict and said he was threatened with a recall by McBride and others if he did not vote against the Montbello plan on Nov. 19. He joined the 4-3 majority supporting it.
Political leaders have rallied around Easley, including Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Denver mayors Wellington Webb and Federico Peña. Easley said he held a town hall Wednesday and Thursday, state Sen. Mike Johnston, who represents Far Northeast Denver, invited community members over for “beer and BBQ” with Easley.
“Right now, we’re mainly just trying to spread the news about why it’s important to vote for better schools,” Easley said.