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Fired superintendent plans 'future litigation' against Douglas County School Board

Corey Wise has retained a law firm and sent a letter to the school board requesting numerous documents and preservation of evidence.

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — Two weeks after he was fired during a highly contentious and controversial school board meeting, former superintendent Corey Wise has made it clear he intends to file a lawsuit against the school district.

“This letter serves as a record request pursuant to the Colorado Open Records Act and notice of your duty to preserve evidence related to this matter for future litigation,” a letter from the Rathod Mohamedbhai law firm says.

The letter, which is in full below, was sent to the district on Friday and seeks substantial documents on numerous topics, including emails and other “digital communications” generated by members of the school board regarding Wise’s termination.

It also seeks “preservation of evidence” regarding communications that refer to numerous topics, including the district’s equity policy, COVID masking, discussions about the “racial demographics of students,” banning books, diversity and the teacher’s union.

WISE’S TERMINATION

Wise was fired during a special board meeting on Feb. 4. During the week before his firing, the three minority members of the seven-member school board said they were approached by other board members and told they had issued an ultimatum for Wise to resign or be fired.

The minority board members, Elizabeth Hanson, Susan Meek, and David Ray, said they were concerned about the private nature of the moves, which they felt could violate Colorado's open meetings laws.

In the November election, the seven-member school board underwent a shakeup when more than half of its members were replaced by a group of four conservative candidates. It's the first time conservatives have had control of the board since 2017.

Mike Peterson, Becky Myers, Kaylee Winegar, and Christy Williams all won their seats in November. They ran together on a "Kids First" platform.

Ultimately, the board met in a special meeting on Feb. 4, and in a 4-3 vote; Wise was fired.

At the time, the board did not give a reason for the termination and per his contract, Wise was to be awarded $247,500 for being fired without cause.

In an interview with Fox News on Feb. 7, Peterson and Winegar, defended the firing of Wise as necessary to prevent the teachers union from gaining power. Though, in a separate interview the next day with talk radio host George Brauchler on 710 KNUS, Peterson suggested that Wise did do something worthy of termination.

"If we wanted to just do a change, we could've done that in December. We could have come in, removed the superintendent for cause and installed somebody else, but that was not a plan and that's not what we did," Peterson said.

RELATED: DougCo parent sues, claims school board members violated open meeting law

LETTER FROM LAW FIRM

9NEWS Legal Expert Whitney Traylor said that the letter in question, preservation of evidence letter, is a common document before a potential lawsuit. 

"And that's essentially saying, 'We're looking into this matter. There may be litigation because of that. You have a duty now to preserve all of these documents, to not destroy documents and things like that,'" Traylor said. "And if you do destroy documents, then we will ask the court to sanction you if things move forward. And I've had that happen where litigants have destroyed, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes maybe with a nefarious purpose."

As of now, it's hard to know which way a potential lawsuit would go, considering it's at such an early stage, but generally speaking, Traylor says a settlement isn't out of the question. 

"So, I've seen cases settle after an initial letter like this, not just because they were scared or it was an intimidating letter - because this wasn't - they weren't beating on the table. They're just saying, don't destroy evidence and here's what we're asking for," Traylor said. "When they actually start writing a demand letter, that's when they'll say, 'Here's all the evidence. Here's how we think we're going to prove the case. Here's your exposure to avoid all the litigation. Here's a settlement offer we're making.'"

However, public perception needs to be considered at the end of the district, as the entire process could be lengthy. 

"That's a component that defendants have to consider. And in this day and age where the everything goes viral, everything's public and everybody is dug-in and completely dogmatic. These are things that people want to avoid." Traylor said. 

One request in the letter includes, "All records, emails or other digital communications received or sent by any Douglas County School Board member regarding Erin Kane between Oct. 1, 2021, through Feb. 17, 2022."

Traylor said if something were to come of that request, it could be used as indirect or circumstantial evidence.

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH

Earlier this week, the board met to decide on a timeline for hiring Wise's replacement. They approved an amended version of the job description and decided the job will be posted Feb. 17-25. 

After hours of discussion, the board essentially agreed to put continuing discussion of the timeline and amendments on the agenda for next week's meeting, which is set for Tuesday.

RELATED: DougCo board discusses timeline of superintendent hiring; Absent teachers' names not released for now

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