Women make second request for information
May 22, 2002
Two local women campaigning to oust Superintendent Tom Farrell have made a second, hefty request for Aspen School District documents.The request, a two-page list of seven items, came to the district less than a day after 150 superintendent supporters turned out for a school board meeting to beg Farrell to remain at his post.The latest request, drafted by attorneys of Aspen resident Carrie Morgridge and received by the district around noon Tuesday, focuses mainly on district financial information. The list also includes records Morgridge requested in her last letter to the district – all correspondence, in U.S. mail, private courier or e-mail form, between district administrators, principals and members of the Aspen School Board.Morgridge’s last document request, submitted to the district in mid-April, requested three years worth of correspondence from the same parties. At the time of that request, Morgridge remarked that obtaining district communications from some administrators had proved difficult and she had not received as many e-mail records as expected.Also included in Tuesday’s document request:-records that account for all expenditures concerning the $40.9 million bond issue approved by Pitkin County voters in November 2000. The bond issue, paid for by a $4.2 million annual tax increase, was requested to allow the district to build onto and renovate Aspen High School;-records of payments from the district to any member of the Aspen School Board, their family or businesses under a board member’s control, dating back five years;-excluding salary payments, records of any payments made to a school district administrator (Farrell, the superintendent’s administrative assistant, assistant superintendent Joel Sheridan, the district’s three principals and the district’s technology coordinator, Patty Goodson, are named), dating back five years;-paperwork concerning loans made to board members or district personnel, as well as their families or businesses under their control, dating back five years;-paperwork detailing loans that list the district as a surety or guarantor – a co-signer, essentially – also dating back five years;-district policies concerning personnel involved in traffic offenses that would include the possession or use of drugs and alcohol.Vicki Johnson, Farrell’s administrative assistant, said the request would be forwarded to the school district’s attorney, Chris Gdowski of Denver.”We haven’t spoken to our attorney yet, so things are kind of on hold until we talk to him,” Johnson said. “It’s standard operating procedure – we wait and talk to him and see what they can have and what they can’t.”The district office is currently calculating the cost of Morgridge’s first request, from the price of copying certain documents to the overtime racked up by district employees.Morgridge and Aspen resident Laurie Michaels have defended their records request as the best way to evaluate Farrell’s handling of the district.”The reason we seek the information is our belief that it will help us and other parents to assess the performance of Superintendent Farrell,” the pair wrote in a letter to The Aspen Times on May 10. “We do believe there are many reasons for concern: certainly we have been told that by many fellow parents, teachers and employees. We are engaged in a serious, lawful effort to separate fact from rumor.”Morgridge and Michaels have also told school board members that their ultimate goal is to see Farrell fired, though the women have never publicly stated the motivation for their quest.Both Morgridge and Michaels were unavailable for comment Tuesday evening.At Monday’s meeting of the Aspen School Board, nearly 150 parents, teachers and students turned out to voice their support of Farrell. Many who spoke urged Farrell to remain in Aspen, since he recently revealed that he was seeking employment on the Front Range. However, Farrell said Tuesday that he was not selected for the one post he applied for – superintendent of the St. Vrain Valley School District – so he will remain in Aspen for the time being.