AURORA | Aurora Public Schools spent about $18,000 to investigate embattled Board of Education director Eric Nelson’s résumé, school board president Amber Drevon said at a meeting Tuesday, Aug. 2.
That was the sum APS paid Denver-based private investigator Rick Johnson to verify the many wobbly affiliations listed on Nelson’s resume after allegations of the sullied board director’s fabricated credentials were first reported by The Colorado Statesman in June.
Drevon’s declaration of the hefty price tag came after she and several other board members lambasted Nelson for his refusal to step down from his position on the board. Under state law, only voters can remove him.
“As a constituent of this community, I find your behavior unethical and unacceptable,” Drevon said. “Furthermore, I’m outraged that your lack of accountability cost the students of this district over $18,000. I want to reiterate the board’s desire for you to resign.”
He has steadfastly refused, making little comment about the controversy during school board meetings.
At the Tuesday meeting, the board officially voted to strip Nelson of his secretarial duties, bar him from using a district credit card, and ban him from being reimbursed for any money he spends at professional development conferences across the country. The board did determine, however, that Nelson is still allowed to attend some conferences if he wishes to do so. Nelson will also be able to update his biography on the APS website, a listing that was previously removed while the district reviewed his credentials.
Nelson made no indication of plans to step down from his post Tuesday, despite multiple denouncements and calls for him to do so.
“This situation is a disgrace and a distraction to the work of Aurora Public Schools,” said board director JulieMarie Shepherd Macklin.
Shepherd Macklin went on to say that Nelson approached her with an offer to resign if she agreed to appoint a replacement of his choosing. The website Chalkbeat Colorado reported earlier in the week that Nelson would offer to resign from his post only if the board appointed another minority in his place. Nelson is black.
“The gall of Mr. Nelson to call me and suggest that he would resign if I agreed to appoint a certain person shows the level of regard with which he holds this position — nothing more than a mere token to be traded,” Shepherd Macklin said.
Board Vice President Dan Jorgensen scolded Nelson for wasting the board’s time.
“Just tonight alone we’ve spent 30 minutes engaged in this activity — and we had a speaker at the beginning — you may not value my time or you may not value your time, but I do, and it is time that we should be investing in our kids, and we just basically wasted 40 minutes,” he said. “What you’re doing is you’re undermining our ability to help kids, our job. Your presence is disruptive.”
Calling Nelson’s actions a “distraction,” Board Director Cathy Wildman once again implored Nelson to resign from his post.
“I would encourage you to have the courage to leave this seat,” she said. “When you speak, I don’t know whether you’re telling the truth or not.”
Following an initial reading on Tuesday, board members will vote whether to officially invoke a public censure of Nelson at their next meeting Sept. 6. If approved, the censure would largely be symbolic, according to Brandon Eyre, who provides legal counsel to the board and the district.
“In the simplest terms, a public censure is merely a political statement,” Eyre said.
Earlier on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, released a letter he sent to U.S. Attorney John Walsh in which he urged the prosecutor to investigate Nelson’s military credentials on suspicions he may have violated the federal Stolen Valor Act of 2013. The law is intended to punish anyone who misrepresents receipt of military decorations.