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Denver ethics board OK with Happy Haynes juggling city parks and rec job, school board role

Allegra "Happy" Haynes at the ethics board hearing she requested (Eric Gorski).
Allegra "Happy" Haynes at the ethics board hearing she requested (Eric Gorski).

Members of the Denver Board of Ethics said at a hearing Wednesday they are fine with Allegra “Happy” Haynes holding a volunteer school board seat while heading the city’s parks and recreation department as long as she follows precedent and takes steps to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

Board staff indicated an informal opinion will be put in writing in the next three days.

Haynes, who is running for reelection for her at-large seat, sought the opinion after Mayor Michael Hancock appointed her six weeks ago as executive director of parks and recreation, which in rare but sometimes sensitive circumstances does business with Denver Public Schools.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Haynes assured ethics board members she would follow guidelines established in a 2001 opinion when James Mejia held the same two roles.

Those steps will include delegating a staff person in parks and recreation to deal with any matters involving DPS. Ethics board members wanted to make sure the person was a civil service employee and not appointed, as was the case with Mejia.

Ethics board member Roy Wood, former provost at the University of Denver, quizzed Haynes about her views on “public trust in government” given that Haynes may face criticism over city-DPS dealings. A controversial land swap between the two parties in southeast Denver, for instance, is the subject of an ongoing court battle.

“Both the city and school district have very strong ethics codes and I intend to follow those on either side ensuring there isn’t either the actual or the appearance of a conflict,” Haynes told the board.

The school board president also said she intends to “to fully commit to the job I was hired for with the city and not use time to conduct school business.”

Wood raised another question, wondering whether by recusing herself in some cases, “would we lose a valuable voice?”

Haynes’ school board race opponent, Robert Speth, has questioned whether Haynes can handle both demanding jobs. He argued for “absolute separation” between the two roles,and highlighted past controversies including the land-swap.

To see past coverage of this issue including a link to the agreement that governed Mejia’s two roles, click here.

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