Colorado

Oct 16, 2013 12:00 AM by Maddie Garrett

Local school board candidate raising eyebrows

It almost seems like a case of deja-vu for a Falcon school board candidate. Kevin Butcher is once again facing conflict of interest allegations. A few years ago, controversy surrounded his unsuccessful run for Colorado Springs City Council, after he was involved in a lawsuit against the City over Banning Lewis Ranch.

This time, it's his business with Falcon School District 49 that's raising eyebrows.

Butcher is known in D-49 as a longtime volunteer, as a parent, but also as a businessman. He's being singled out by some, for his business dealings with the school district.

"When was he going to disclose it, after he was elected?" asked Dana Palmer, also a D-49 volunteer and an outspoken parent against Butcher.

If you look at his campaign statements, Butcher makes no mention of his financial relationship with the district. On D-49's website he states he's the president of a commercial real estate company that services businesses, governments and individuals, etc.

His companies are CameronButcher and Tutt Commercial Center LLC. D-49 is currently leasing a building from Tutt for more than $32,000 a year to house its Ascent program and central enrollment.

"My fear is that he will not, if he's elected, that he will not be able to make unbiased decisions as it relates to capital needs for the district," said Palmer.

In the past, Butcher also acted as a broker between the district and the Eastern Colorado Bank (ECB) to lease the building that houses the Falcon Virtual Academy.

News 5 sat down with Butcher and asked him directly if he sees a conflict of interest in his run for school board. He replied, "If I had I wouldn't have run."

Butcher is also open about his business with D-49 and said these deals were cut in the past and wouldn't effect his role as a board member.

"There really isn't an issue here, this was done by the school board in a public hearing, and was unanimously approved by the board. And this was a long time before I ever decided to run for the board," he explained.

Palmer, who is the chair of the District Accountability and Advisory Committee, said she's not convinced. She admits, she was planning to run for the school board until she underwent brain surgery.

"If I can't do it, then I'm going to make sure to the best of my ability, that those that decide they're going to do it are truly representing and truly in this for the right reasons, and that's for the kids," she said.

To clear things up, News 5 looked into the district's code of ethics, which states:

"A Board member shall not acquire or hold an interest in any business or undertaking which that member has reason to believe may be directly and substantially affected to its economic benefit by official action to be taken by an agency over which the member has substantive authority."

D-49 Spokesperson Stephanie Wurtz breaks it down, saying, "If there is a question that there's going to be financial gain that conflicts with that employee or representative's role in the district, then that is not okay."

Wurtz expanded and explained, if there's even an appearance of a conflict the district will investigate.

"The focus here is on building trust with our community," said Wurtz.

But with many ethics codes and various cases, there are grey areas. Case in point, the line that deals with "official action to be taken."

"The code that keeps getting referenced does not apply to somebody who is not sitting on the school board," reasoned Butcher.

But if elected, Butcher could possibly deal with issues that involve his company, or simply the real-estate market he's heavily involved in. News 5 asked, how would he handle those scenarios.

"I understand that working for the, being on the school board, foregoes the possibilities of my company doing work for the school board in the future, and it is a great sacrifice," he said.

If and when the option to continue that lease with Tutt Commercial Center LLC comes up, Butcher said he'll recuse himself from the discussion and vote.

But is that enough for voters?

"For every decision that's made we're going to have to ask ourselves the question, ok, is this deal, is this transaction, is this building, is this parcel one of Mr. Butcher's? One of CameronButcher's properties?"

Still, Butcher said the school district's attorney gave him the green light, and calls this a smear campaign against him.

"It's just a sad case of local politics at the school board level, it's really sad and it's not productive for our school district," he said.

Productive or not, voters will have the final say on election day, November 5th.

There are five other candidates running alongside Butcher for three seats on the D-49 Board of Education.

Both Henry Allen, Jr., and Tammy Harold are running for re-election. Allen was appointed to the position last year after another member left the board unexpectedly. John Graham also ran for that open seat and lost out to Allen. He's running again this year for a seat on the board.

You might recognize minister David Moore, who just ran for Colorado Springs City Council District 6 and lost that race. He too has put his name in the hat for D-49.

Chris Bombria is also running for the board, he too is a local businessman and volunteer with the D-49.

You can find out more about all of the candidates at two public forums being held Wednesday night at Vista Ridge High School from 5:30 to 7:30pm and Thursday night at Falcon Middle School from 6:00 to 7:30pm.

Photo courtesy: Falcon District 49

 

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