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3D settlement offer expires today

Veronica Whitney

Eagle County School District officials said Monday the school board will not consider the offer received last week to settle pending litigation with local publisher Michael Cacioppo.

Cacioppo’s offer to settle a lawsuit – which has blocked pay raises for school district employees approved by voters with Question 3D for more than a year – expires today.

“Because he didn’t follow established procedures, the board did not

take any action regarding the settlement agreement and has not scheduled

any special meetings to comply with Cacioppo’s May 20 deadline,” said Pam Holmes Boyd, spokeswoman for the district.

The offer came almost a month after Eagle County District Court Judge Richard Hart ruled in favor of the school district the lawsuit filed by Cacioppo in February 2002.

“If they want to settle the case, they have an opportunity to settle it,” Cacioppo, publisher of a local weekly, Speakout!, said Monday. “The last time I made an offer, several board members never heard about it.

“The public now understands how reasonable I’ve been all along,” Cacioppo added, “because I submitted this offer publicly. The school district’s attorneys don’t control me. I will make any offer that I choose to make, the way I choose to make it.”

“Settlement offer’

Cacioppo presented a “settlement offer” during last week’s regular meeting of school board.

“This time, I’m assured that the school board members present at the meeting got my offer,” Cacioppo said. “If they choose not to accept it, I will proceed to the Appellate Court. I had promised I will pursue this litigation to the finish, which is the Supreme Court.

The board members, however, said a pre-established procedure for such actions required Cacioppo’s attorney to present settlement offers to the district’s attorneys, not to appeal directly to the board.

“At Wednesday’s meeting, the board specifically asked Cacioppo if his attorney had followed this procedure, and he declined to answer,” Boyd said. “The requirement that any offers go first to the district’s attorneys, and not directly to the board, remains intact.”

Cacioppo has until May 29 to file an appeal. Last week, however, the board learned that Carol Curtis, Cacioppo’s attorney, filed a motion to withdraw from the case.

3D payments still on hold

When and how some 700 school district employees will start collecting the raises is yet to be stipulated pending the possible appeal. School district officials said if Cacioppo does file an appeal, the school board would continue to hold the 3D payments. The school district has collected $3.1 million since Question 3D – which increased funding for the school district by $3.1 million annually – was enacted in January 2002.

In the meantime, the court has established that Cacioppo isn’t responsible for court costs. Although Judge Hart didn’t award attorney’s fees – which add up to $81,000 so far – to the school district under Hart’s ruling, Cacioppo could have been liable to pay for court costs, estimated at $15,000.

Cacioppo’s lawsuit alleges the ballot language contained in Question 3D violated the terms of Colorado’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

TABOR strictly regulates any tax increases and calls out specific language for ballot questions. Cacioppo’s lawsuit claims the district’s TABOR notice contained falsified dollar amounts and growth percentages and that the ballot language was false and misleading.

In his ruling, Judge Hart rejected claims from Cacioppo the district exhibited a systemic disregard for the law in its development of the 3D question and TABOR notice.

Settlement offer

Conditions of Michael Cacioppo’s offer to settle litigation with the Eagle County School District include the following:

– The district stipulates the $3.1 million increase in funding per year will not include an additional and fluctuating amount beyond that.

– The district stipulates that $3.1 million cannot turn into $6.2 million the second year and $9.3 million the third year, ad infinitum.

– The district continues to implement the TAP Milken performance pay plan throughout the term of this tax increase, as promised to voters.

– The district allows viewing access to all legally obtainable public records, without charge.

– The district reimburses all of Cacioppo’s legal fees and costs in the ballot issue case immediately.

– The district reimburses Speakout Vail Inc.’s legal fees and costs in the public records case immediately.

– The settlement language and board resolution authorizing such be published in local newspapers.

If accepted by today, Cacioppo would dismiss the lawsuit, with prejudice, after reimbursement.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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