Wayne Rutt and Paul Marrick, the co-founders of Parents for Truth, have their first appearance before a judge today at 1 p.m. in Denver.
The hearing was originally scheduled for 9 a.m. today but was postponed in favor of hearing a series of procedural motions. Marrick and Rutt, who filed the original complaint against Poudre Education Association (PEA) – the local Fort Collins teachers’ union -, for violating a series of state election laws have filed a motion to expand the complaint to include both the statewide union (CEA) and the local Poudre School District. Their lawyer also filed for a continuance (a delay of hearing), citing that the school district dragged its feet in responding to their subpoenas and Open Records request for documents. Marrick and Rutt finally procured all 7,500 of the requested documents as of last Monday evening but still needed more time to review them and to make their case.
On the other hand, the attorney for PEA and CEA has filed a motion to dismiss the case. As reported in the Fort Collins Coloradoan:
Attorney Mark Grueskin, who represents both the PEA and CEA, said the allegations against both unions are unsupported and therefore should be thrown out.
“The lawyer for Mr. Rutt and Mr. Marrick said that PEA violated the law. He didn’t provide any fact that would suggest that a violation of law really did occur,” Grueskin said. “We believe there’s ample reason to dismiss any if not all of the claims that they’ve raised.”
And in case you still may think that there isn’t a lot of collaboration in larger school districts among school administration and teachers’ union leadership, then take note of what has transpired in Fort Collins in the wake of Marrick and Rutt’s original complaint:
The parents say the district dragged its feet in fulfilling a records request for thousands of district e-mails while simultaneously sending messages to staff members telling them how to delete the e-mails involved in the request.
“Upon receiving our request, they almost immediately began working with the union,” Rutt said. “Contacting each person named in our request, they instructed them on how to go about permanently deleting their e-mails and provided them with a list that identified the very e-mails we were searching for.”
And in case you think the school districts don’t mind advertising that collaboration:
PSD board President Ross Cunniff said an e-mail informing all staff of the open-records request that also included standard information about the district’s e-mail policy was sent out shortly after the request, but only after all e-mails in the system had been saved.
“We sequestered all e-mail, even ones that weren’t a hit on the request,” Cunniff said. “All the e-mails had been saved off (prior to the sending of a policy message) so that in the event of a request we still had the data.”
Cunniff said the policy e-mail included a section that explained e-mail is considered an open record. The policy message also explained that e-mails are not backed up by the district’s computer system, and therefore are destroyed if they are deleted in both a user’s “inbox” and emptied out of the user’s deleted items or “trash” bin, he said.
Noting that this is not something he plans to litigate, Gessler said he and his clients “think it’s more than coincidental” that the message was sent immediately after their request for files including 7,500 PSD e-mails.
I will be attending this afternoon’s hearing and will have a report later today on the result of all the motions, when the hearing is rescheduled, and where the case goes from here.
Update: The administrative law judge granted the motion from Marrick and Rutt to add CEA and the Poudre School District as defendants to the complaint and ruled against the defendants’ motion to dismiss the charges. A final hearing date has been set for Monday, May 16, in which all the evidence will be set forth and debated.