Aspen School District taking measures to remove human resources director | AspenTimes.com

Aspen School District taking measures to remove human resources director

The Aspen School District is taking steps to terminate its director of human resources because of her previously undisclosed history, including a disbarment, misdemeanor conviction and alleged bankruptcy fraud.

Superintendent John Maloy said Monday that Elizabeth Hodges is on paid administrative leave after the conclusion of a background review conducted by the district's legal team.

"After a lengthy review of Ms. Hodges' situation by the district's legal counsel, which I did not become aware of Ms. Hodges' circumstances until receiving an anonymous letter in late July 2018, I have decided to initiate the process for removing Ms. Hodges from her position as director of human resources," Maloy said in a statement sent to The Aspen Times. "Pursuant to her contract with the Aspen School District, Ms. Hodges is entitled to seek a review of my decision with the Board of Education. I understand that Ms. Hodges has elected to seek such a review and we will follow the process afforded to her by her contract. In the meantime, Ms. Hodges will be on administrative leave with pay."

The same statement was sent to school district staff members Monday, along with the notation that Maloy and his administrative assistant, Angela Rittenhouse, would be "more than happy to assist" employees with "questions or concerns related to matters of personnel or human resources."

The school district is comprised of 250 to 265 employees among the Aspen campus' three schools, as well as Aspen Community School in Woody Creek.

Dwayne Romero, president of the five-member Aspen Board of Education, said Maloy's statement is "obviously our district-wide position, which is to be respectful of the process and allow it to take course."

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Hodges, 36, could not be reached for comment, and recent attempts to contact her over the past month were unsuccessful.

Because the matter is pending, Maloy declined to say how long Hodges has been on paid leave. She was absent for a part of the school district's open enrollment conducted the last week of November.

Hodges' salary for the 2018-19 year is $132,345, according to the school district.

The school district's examination into Hodges' background came near the beginning of the academic year, around late August or early September, after learning in July through an anonymous letter that the state of Missouri disbarred her in April.

The Aspen Times, which also learned about the disbarment through an anonymous letter, additionally reported in August that Hodges was served with a grand jury indictment out of Kansas City, Missouri, on May 31, 2016. Her first day on the job as the district's HR director was July 1, 2016, and the school district conducted its initial background check into Hodges in March 2016, Maloy previously told the Times.

Hodges did not reveal the indictment to her school district superiors before taking on the HR job, based on previous interviews. Upon learning about Hodges' disbarment, Maloy and then-Board of Education President Sheila Wills said that had no bearing on her employment as the HR director, and they expressed confidence in her job performance so far.

Their defense of Hodges was the catalyst for the formation of a parents' group aimed at removing Maloy, and in October, the Board of Education elected not to renew Maloy's contract past its June 30, 2021, expiration date. Hodges' indictment and disbarment stemmed from her estate-planning work for a couple in Missouri.

Hodges pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of deceptive business practices in December 2016 and this month she completed a two-year probation sentence in Missouri. She was originally indicted for felony forgery, according to court records.

The conviction was the result of her selling a deceased couple's Kia Soul to a dealership without reporting proceeds of the sale in their probate case. As an attorney, Hodges helped the couple with their estate planning.

Survivors of the estate sued Hodges in November 2015, and one year later they won a default judgment of nearly $1 million — $614,000 along with $378,000 in punitive damages. The larger amount was based how much the heirs claimed Hodges stole from the estate; Hodges has maintained that figure was based on rumor and the judge merely awarded that amount because she did not fight the case. The judgment amount has since eclipsed $1.1 million because of interest and fees.

In February, Hodges declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in Denver, asking the bankruptcy court to discharge the seven-figure judgment. That effort has been clouded by bankruptcy trustee Jared Walters' adversary complaint from June alleging Hodges hid assets by fraudulently transferring 50 percent ownership of her Carbondale home to her wife.

The school district also is a creditor in the case because it provided Hodges a $30,000 home loan in March 2017. Bankruptcy records also show that Walters sent a notice of subpoena to the school district Nov. 30 seeking Hodges' timecards, pay stubs and documents regarding the loan it provided.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

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