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DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A judge has ordered four Douglas County school board members to keep their board business public.

The Wednesday order grants a preliminary injunction against board members Michael Peterson, Rebecca Myers, Kaylee Winegar and Christy Williams. They are prohibited from discussing or acting on public business “except in public meetings open to the public.”

The order came in a lawsuit alleging the board majority violated Colorado open meetings law when they had a series of private meetings about Superintendent Corey Wise’s job. The same board majority then voted to fire Wise without cause.

In an order signed Wednesday, 18th Judicial District Judge Jeffrey K. Holmes said a superintendent’s job “is clearly a matter of public business.” He said the evidence showed those four board members “collectively committed, outside of public meetings” to fire the superintendent at a Feb. 4 meeting.

“The fact that no public comment was permitted at the February 4th meeting is additional evidence of the Individual Defendants’ commitment to their course of action,” Holmes wrote.

The preliminary injunction is just one step in the ongoing case. The judge has yet to weigh in on whether Wise’s firing was legal.

Robert C. Marshall, who filed the lawsuit, issued a statement after the order.

“Judge Holmes’ well-reasoned ruling recognizes that local public bodies cannot circumvent our state’s Open Meetings Law by discussing public business – and making important policy decisions – through a series of meetings by two members at a time. The four newly-elected School Board directors deliberately used this scheme to evade public scrutiny as they discussed and decided (‘committed’ in both President Peterson’s and the court’s words) to terminate the District Superintendent’s contract. There is no weightier policy decision than this for a school board to make; the Order says it clearly and plainly: ‘Discussions by members of the [Board of Education], let alone ultimate decisions on this subject should be conducted at meetings open to the public.’

I would also note that the judge made a finding that the Kids First Board members had come to a decision before the February 4th hearing where they fired Mr. Wise, which is the exact opposite to what they testified to under oath in open court. Additionally, the judge’s view that they had already come to that decision before the February 4th meeting strongly suggests that the Court would find it difficult to believe that Feb 4 meeting ‘cured’ the firing of Mr. Wise.

Robert C. Marshall, plaintiff

School board members cited in the case were not immediately available to provide comment.