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Recall efforts against two Woodland Park school board members fail

WOODLAND PARK, Colo. (KRDO) -- Following weeks of counting signatures -- the Teller County Clerk and Recorders office told 13 Investigates the recall petitions for two Woodland Park School District Re-2 board members have failed. 

On August 1, a recall committee filed two petitions attempting to recall Woodland Park School Board Vice President David Illingworth and Board Director Suzanne Patterson. The petitions claimed Woodland Park board members violated Colorado Open Meeting Laws by hiding action items on the board's meeting agendas.

Both petitions consisted of around 2,700 petition signatures according to the Teller County Clerk. To trigger a recall election in November, the petition must contain 2,648 valid signatures.

After reviewing all of the petition signatures, the Teller County Clerk determined that hundreds of signature entries were eventually rejected.  According to the final tally obtained by 13 Investigates, the petition to recall Illingworth received 2,709 signatures, but only 2,323 signatures were eventually accepted. As for the petition to recall Patterson, 2,697 signatures were accepted, but only 2,288 were accepted. 

Petition signees had their signatures deemed invalid for a variety of reasons including information not matching voter registration, invalid signing date, or the signer was not eligible to sign the petition. Exactly 100 people signed the petition to recall Illingworth, and they did not live within the Woodland Park School District. 

“We knew it was an uphill battle from the start,” Erin O’Connell, one of the recall organizers and a Woodland Park School District parent told 13 Investigates. “There is a lot of hesitancy in our community because feel like they would get retaliated against by the board. That’s not just with teachers.” 

O’Connell says these results are not a total loss, and these recall efforts will help during future election cycles. 

“We have garnered so much community support,” O’Connell said. “We’ve shined a light on the fact that the board hasn’t been transparent, and we want them to be held accountable. In future elections, we are hoping that it’ll encourage people to be more informed when they vote. A lot of people that voted for them last year signed our recall petition.” 

Woodland Park School Board Director Suzanne Patterson and Vice President David Illingworth

Following the clerk’s ruling, Woodland Park School Board Vice President David Illingworth and Board Director Suzanne Patterson commented publicly to 13 Investigates for the first time on parents’ efforts to remove them from office. 

"I am pleased that this wasteful effort by a group committed to a radical agenda against our parents and schools has failed to undo the will of the people, and it is heartening to see after two months of effort their numbers couldn't approach even the votes against me on election day less than a year ago (2,890 against me in 2021, only 2,323 signatures now).  That proves continued public support for the parent-centered policies we were elected to deliver, while the people of Teller County are sending the same message they loudly declared in our landslide victory on Election Day: they strongly reject the efforts of Erin O'Connell and her band of hard left activists to push parents out of the way in favor of the dark money, leftist politics, and arbitrary mandates of national political organizations.  Hopefully, Ms. O'Connell will choose to at last respect the decision of the people and allow our students, teachers, and parents to focus on excellent education, safety, and a wonderful school year instead of her political grandstanding."

Woodland Park School Board Vice President David Illingworth

"The focus behind the “recall” has nothing to do with public school education. Even though Erin O’Connell, Samantha Peck and Steve Smith hid behind “policy issues”, it was an unsuccessful attempt to pursue a social ideology that is outside the jurisdiction of what defines “public school education”. I’m grateful the voters saw past that.

Campaign Promises made in November have been Promises kept. Parental rights, school choice, curriculum transparency, value teachers by paying them a fair wage and preparing students for a successful future.  I’m honored to continue to serve our community."

Woodland Park School Board Director Suzanne Patterson

13 Investigates previously reported on a subsequent lawsuit filed by O'Connell about claims that Woodland Park School Board members ignored Colorado state law. 

Back in April, a southern Colorado judge ordered the board to "comply with open meeting laws" and "clearly, honestly, and forthrightly list all future agenda items."

O'Connell is now requesting that a district judge hold the school board in Contempt of Court. She accuses the district of continuing to violate Colorado Open Meeting Laws despite the court order.

The next court hearing is scheduled for this Friday. 

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Dan Beedie

Dan is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about Dan here.

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