Petitioners to recall three members of the Cripple Creek/Victor School Board moved closer to achieving their goal last week. When they failed to turn in enough valid signatures, petitioners Patty Waddle, Greg Brazill and Bill Arrick gave it another try.
“We turned in about 140 corrected and new signatures for each person and will know within 15 business days if we have enough for an election,” Arrick wrote in an email to The Courier on April 10.
The petitioners’ targets are the president, secretary and treasurer Tim Braun, Tonya Martin and Dennis Jones, respectively.
Jones spoke out last week, emphasizing that Waddle, who ran against him unsuccessfully in 2017, is one of the petitioners.
The petition lists four charges against Jones:
1. Committing fraudulent acts by signing statements that he lived in the district he represents.
Jones’s response: In 2012, Jones was appointed to the board to fill a vacancy and now lives in the same house he did then. “I was interviewed and subsequently appointed to the board,” he said. A year later, he was elected and continued to live in the same home in Cripple Creek Mountain Estates. “Nobody has ever questioned where I live,” he said. “The only person telling me I don’t live in District E is Patty Waddle,” he said. Jones defeated Waddle by 30 votes in the election in May 2017.
2. Neglecting financial oversight by allowing continued years of identical audit findings concerning internal controls and approving financial records with missing check numbers.
Jones’s response: The checks referred to are from No. 38392 and No. 38409. “There are no missing checks,” he said, producing a hard copy of a check ledger that accounts for those targeted. “We approve expenditures, not checks; yes, they have check numbers but we approve expenditures. Checks come in and go out at different times,” Jones said. “The auditor said ‘there are no missing checks.’”
There were no glaring problems, according to auditors from Hoelting and Co., he said. “The auditor said we are doing a fine job,” Jones said. “He tells us, as he has for the last five years, that we don’t have enough staff in the bookkeeping department,” Jones said, adding that the auditors praised the work of Elaine Hayden, the district’s business manager. “The auditor said we do better than almost any other school district is building up our reserve fund.”
The attention to detail on the reserve fund is strategic as the district is funded chiefly by property taxes, with no financial cushion from the state. ”If we don’t have reserve funds and if the mine (Newmont) goes away, our revenues go down, so we have to have reserve funds,” Jones said.
The audits are uploaded to the state Department of Education every year. “If there were any issues regarding accounting procedures or financial risks, the department would be the first inquiry, asking us what we are doing,” Jones said. “It’s never happened.”
3. Ignoring and disrespecting community members when contacted with concerns.
Jones’s response: “I have evidence that I answer all emails from parents or concerned citizens, as well as staff members,” he said.
4. Avoiding transparency
“The board has never indicated its unwillingness to discuss anything other than personnel issues in public. All financial records are listed online; agendas and minutes are accessible on our website and there are links to policies and other happenings in the district,” Jones said.
In his defense, Jones highlighted Waddle’s repeated requests for documentation to the finance office, most of which have been denied. “Patty is always given the opportunity to pay the fees calculated to provide the documentation, if she chooses, but always wants our staff to provide it for free,” Jones said. “This is a board policy and anyone asking for records will be given those records but staff time cannot exceed the one hour time frame without cost.”