Background After receiving an inquiry from another candidate for District 51 School Board Director District B on Thursday, Oct. 15, the district’s designated election official determined Paul Pitton at that time was living in the Director District D, not Director District B. Candidate Pitton chose not to withdraw from the election and received the most votes in the Nov. 3, 2015, School Board Election. On Oct. 27, 2015, three registered voters within the district petitioned the local district court to request that the court rule that Mr. Pitton was unqualified for school board director District B candidacy, that the designated election official wrongfully failed to verify Mr. Pitton's residency in the correct district before certifying him to the ballot, and that the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder must cease counting votes for Mr. Pitton. On Nov. 2, 2015, the district court denied the petitioner's requests and ordered the election go on. The petitioners appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on Dec. 8, 2015. The court released a case announcement on May 23, 2016, that affirmed the district court's previous ruling.
Next StepsThe Supreme Court's decision affirms the district court's decision to allow the Nov. 3, 2015, election to proceed and for votes to be tabulated for candidate Paul Pitton. Pitton, who received the most votes in the election, was sworn into office on Nov. 30, 2015 and is currently serving on the board. The court's decision tells District 51 and its School Board that a challenge to the election official's certification to the ballot was not made before a statutory deadline, and therefore the election rightfully was allowed to proceed.
UPDATE May 23, 2016 - Today, the Colorado Supreme Court released a case announcement on Case 15SA292, Carson v. Reiner. It states Section 1-1-113(1) of the Colorado Revised Statutes "does not permit a challenge to an election official's certification of a candidate to the ballot, solely on the basis of the certified candidate's qualification, once the period permitted by section 1-4-501(3), C.R.S. (2015), for challenging the qualification of the candidate directly has expired," and, therefore, "the ruling of the district court is affirmed."
UPDATE Nov. 30, 2015 - Paul Pitton and Doug Levinson were sworn in today, in accordance with a statutory deadline. Levinson was elected to serve as the board's representative from Director District A and Pitton was elected to the Director District B seat. Pitton, who lived in Director District D at the time of the election, told the board at today's meeting he will have documentation available to prove residency in Director District B at the new board's first business meeting Dec. 8. The board does not have to take action to decide if Pitton is a resident of District B, but they can opt to declare a vacancy if they believe he is not a resident of District B.
UPDATE Nov. 23, 2015 - The District issued a statement on Friday that it would, if possible, delay any action regarding Paul Pitton's election to the school board until the Supreme Court rules on the legal challenge to his candidacy. The District subsequently determined that in the absence of a court order delaying or stopping post-election procedures and timelines, a school director must take office no later than 15 days after it receives the official election results. The District received the certification of election results on November 20, 2015. It is not possible for the District to extend this time period.
To the best of its knowledge, none of the interested parties to the pending legal action will seek a court order to stop or delay the post-election process until the legal challenge is finally decided. Therefore, over the weekend the District proceeded to notify Pitton of his election to office, and advised him that he must now take the oath of office within 10 days of such notification (by December 1, 2015). Upon receipt of his oath within that time, the District’s designated election official, Terri Wells, will issue to him a formal certificate evidencing his election, and his term of office will then begin.
The Board will hold a special meeting on November 30, 2015, at which time the Board president will administer the oath of office to Doug Levinson, the winner of the District A school director race, and to Pitton should he elect to appear and take the oath at that time.
The District is aware that, as of election day, Pitton was not a resident of the director district he was elected to represent. A school director cannot hold office if at any time during his term he or she is or becomes a nonresident of his or her director district. Therefore, if it appears that Pitton is not a resident of Director District B at any time following commencement of his term, the Board of Education is required by statute to adopt a resolution declaring a vacancy in such office at its next regularly scheduled meeting. The next scheduled meeting of the Board following November 30 is on December 8, 2015.
In the event of a vacancy, the Board would have 60 days to appoint someone to fill the vacancy.
The election or appointment of any person to the District B school director office will be subject to change based on decisions or orders of THE COLORADO SUPREME COURT in the pending court action. The Court is expected to hear oral arguments in that action on ON DECEMBER 8.
UPDATE Nov. 20, 2015 – Today the District 51 School Board’s designated election official, Terri Wells, received the certified official abstract of votes cast for each school director candidate in the Nov. 3 Election from Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Sheila Reiner. In accordance with the certified results, Wells will notify Director District A candidate Doug Levinson today regarding his election to office in District A. Mr. Levinson will be sworn in as the new District A representative on the District 51 School Board at a special meeting at 11:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 30, at the Emerson Building, 930 Ute Ave. Colorado. Following receipt of his oath of office, Wells will issue a certificate of election to him. The board and the district will, if possible, delay taking action to finalize the election regarding the District B school director race, due to pending litigation. The school board will review the status of the appeal at the board’s meeting on November 30 and will consider whether action by the board is necessary regarding the District B election at that time.
UPDATE Nov. 12, 2015 - Today, the Supreme Court has decided to take up the review of Judge Bottger's Nov. 2 decision. A hearing will take place Dec. 8, 2015, in Denver.
UPDATE Nov. 4, 2015 - The attorney for Gil Tisue, Kent Carson, and Dale Pass has filed an application to the Supreme Court for review of Judge Bottger's Nov. 2, 2015, decision to deny the petition the three men filed through their attorney last week.
UPDATE Nov. 4, 2015 - The District 51 School Board will have a special meeting at 5 p.m.Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, at the Basil T. Knight Center. The meeting will provide a chance for the board to receive legal advice about next steps for seating the new board. The meeting follows the Nov. 3 election, where candidates Doug Levinson and Paul Pitton received the most votes for two seats on the District 51 School Board. Levinson ran for the Director District A seat and lives within Director District A boundaries, so he can be sworn in as soon as Mesa County certifies the election results. Director District B candidate Pitton, as well as the school district, became aware Oct. 15 that he lives within Director District D boundaries. He continues to live within Director District D at this time. The board will receive advice at Thursday's meeting on how to procede with the situation.
UPDATE Nov. 2, 2015 - Chief District Judge David Bottger has decided not to intervene in the Nov. 3 School Board Election and that Mesa County Elections should continue to count votes for candidate Paul Pitton. Bottger said district courts do not have the authority to overrule the Colorado Supreme Court, which cites three reasons for allowing election offices to stop counting ballots at this stage - a candidate death, a candidate withdrawal, or a write-in vote for a person who has not filed an affidavit of intent to be a write-in candidate. Bottger said Pitton's situation does not fit into any of those three categories, and any contest to his candidacy will have to be resolved post-election.
UPDATE Oct. 30, 2015 – The petition filed by three Mesa County residents asking a judge to rule on the eligibility of Paul Pitton’s candidacy for the Director District B seat on the District 51 School Board will be considered by District Judge David Bottger at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, 2015, in Courtroom 9 at the Mesa County Justice Center.
UPDATE Oct. 28, 2015 – Three Mesa County residents have filed a petition in district court, it was reported today in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Kent Carson, Dale Pass, and Gil Tisue are seeking a judge’s ruling on the eligibility of Paul Pitton to serve as a candidate for the District B seat on the District 51 School Board.
ORIGINAL POST, OCT. 23, 2015 - School District 51 today launches a new page on its website, D51schools.org, that will share updates as they arrive concerning the Nov. 3 Election for the Director District B seat on the District 51 Board of Education.
Parents, students, voters, employees and community members are invited to check the “District B Updates” tab on the home page of the D51schools.org website. Updates also will be posted on the D51news.org news blog and in the District 51 app as the situation evolves. Past updates will remain in a running news feed.
The district apologizes for its mistake in notarizing Pitton’s candidate petitions without first confirming his address was in the proper director district. Providing continual updates in easily accessible locations online is an effort to improve our communication about the situation and help keep voters better informed throughout the election process and potential court action.