So Much for Andrea Merida

From Talking Points Memo:

Looks like it’s not just Republicans in Colorado who are having a rough time dragging their campaigns across the primary finish line.

Earlier, we reported how Democratic Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff sold his house to give his campaign a financial boost. Now, Denver school board member Andrea Merida has resigned from Romanoff’s campaign, after reports that she was being paid thousands of dollars in consulting fees without disclosing her role on the campaign…

At the time, Merida said it was “immaterial to disclose it” and the campaign said her role was not secret.

But in a blog post on her website yesterday, Merida changed her tune. “I neglected to tell the Denver Post that I hold such a position, though not intentionally,” Merida wrote. Merida stated that the campaign paid her $2,500 a month to be a “field organizer,” but that she would resign after the flap.

There’s no need to dwell on the embarrassment this represents for the campaign of Andrew Romanoff–it doesn’t look good, and it certainly does undermine Romanoff’s image of an honest, above-board candidate. But this is considerably worse for Merida personally. She has proven twice now that she is not fit for public office–first when she used obscure rules to force her predecessor on the Denver Public Schools board out of office prematurely (in a move where she was obviously manipulated to some degree by others), kicking off her term awash in bad blood for seemingly no reason, and now this.

Merida’s status as a paid member of Romanoff’s campaign puts a whole new perspective on charges that DPS has become a “proxy battlefield” for the Democratic Senate primary. We agree with those who say it’s a huge distraction from DPS’s mission, and inappropriate for a body that is fighting an uphill battle for public opinion as it is. Merida’s amusing resignation blog post also makes us wonder whether she even really knows why she was wrong:

The Post and others have wrongly and unfairly distorted the facts. I endorsed Andrew Romanoff in November 2009, right after I won my own race. I was a volunteer from that time until May 2010, at which time I took the role of a consultant for field organizing.  I also translated and edited materials in Spanish. I earned $2,500 per month for these tasks.

Further, voters should know that at no time and in no way did the campaign attempt to influence my actions in fulfilling my obligations to the parents, students, teachers and retirees of DPS. To suggest that my work on the Denver Board of Education is for sale is to impugn not only my character, but Andrew Romanoff’s as well.

Merida seems to think it is an important point that she endorsed Romanoff before she was hired by his campaign, which, of course, is completely irrelevant. And her defiant “to suggest that my work on the Denver Board of Education is for sale” statement misses the point that it was her own nondisclosure that brought up the question in the first place.

The fact that she was a paid staffer for the campaign trying to bring down the former head of Denver Public Schools, and did not disclose this, all the while politicizing the DPS board’s policymaking in ways that directly sought to benefit the campaign she was employed by, provokes grave questions about Andrea Merida’s fitness to serve in any capacity. The fact that Merida barely seems to understand why it was wrong in the first place only makes those questions grow louder.

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38 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. peacemonger says:

    Always has been. I give her a lot of credit for her courage and convictions. We’ve had many run-ins (mostly on the blogs), and the Bennet-Romanoff thing has definitely been heated, so I would be lying to say we are still friends.

    I don’t believe, however, that she knew what she was doing was wrong. I think underneath her fiestiness (and sometimes mean-ness), she means well for the kids and families she represents. We may disagree vehemently on this Senate primary race, but there was a time when we agreed on what we wanted for the future of Colorado.

    We all get a little blinded by passion sometimes. G-d knows I’ve been there myself. Anyone else here admit to that?

    This is not really about Andrea, but about conflict-of-interest in general, a problem that could potentially affect all of us who blog and/or organize for things we care about. If we sit on school boards, civic boards, municipal boards, whatever — we have an obligation to them. If we want to blog something that may be a conflict of interest, we must do so anonymously. If we want to work for a campaign, we must be honest and disclose that fact freely.

    I sincerely wish Andrea good luck on the school board, and hope her energy and passion is channeled appropriately in the future toward the societal ills that challenge our schools — poverty, lack of support for teachers and kids, drugs, gangs, media pressures to consume, etc. Those are things we can all align on, I believe.  JMHO.

    • RedGreenRedGreen says:

      ethical blind spot. It’s not about her serving on the school board while blogging, it’s about being paid in secret (and not insignificant amounts) while attacking her paymaster’s opponent in public. It’s not like this kind of thing never happens, but that doesn’t excuse it when it does.

      • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

        If Merida really didn’t know any better, then she really shouldn’t be in elected office. This isn’t a complicated ethical question by any means.

      • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

        Writing the letter without declaring she’s paid by the campaign shows a major blind spot. Her non-apology shows a gigantic blind spot.

        • Ray SpringfieldRay Springfield says:

          She knew what she was doing. So did whoever hired her at ROmanoff for Colorado.

          It’s just anoher sad chapter of corruption in Denver.

          The way she defends his horrid record on immigration makes me wonder if she will start targeting kids families for deportation.

          • Julie says:

            Listen.  I am also disappointed with Romanoff’s immigration record and co-wrote an op/ed airing those concerns.  

            Yet, you just crossed the line.  You and I both know that she, as the daughter of immigrants, would never do such a thing.  I am disgusted that you would say so in order to just continue on attack mode.  

            You should apologize for that.  

      • BlueCat says:

        foresee even how this was going to look if it came to light (and doesn’t everything nowadays?) shows her to be a distracting accident waiting to happen in any elected capacity. Of course it doesn’t make the Romanoff campaign look too bright either, especially considering the whole thing is based on AR being the most pure hearted boy scout in the state.

        • Ray SpringfieldRay Springfield says:

          Romanoff will fire someone else and say mistakes were made when it is obvious that she was hired to try and get inside information on Bennet’s tenure. We could give Merida the Neil Bush defense, but someone at RFC knew what they were paying for.

        • du945 says:

          Merida is a close personal advisor to other candidates as well, like Amber Tafoya.  Lets hope those who listen to her and take her advice don’t find their way into public office either!

          • Steve Harvey says:

            but, even if so, it was a misfired attempt. Taking you instead at face value: trying to exploit this to smear another candidate, in no way related to anything being discussed here, in a race that you apparently are trying to influence, reflects poorly on only one person (hint: it’s not Amber Tofoya).

  2. OuiserBoudreaux says:

    Her eventual apology was so reluctant and half-hearted (after first insisting that she did nothing wrong) that it’s difficult to believe anything from her.  I had never heard of her before her inglorious debut on the school board.  I guess it wasn’t rocket science to predict that her trajectory would be downhill from there……..

  3. glasscup says:

    That’s the problem.

    Seriously, if she won’t step down, what are the procedures for a recall?

  4. AristotleAristotle says:

    and unless she turns it around, I’ll be damn sure to do what I can to see she isn’t reelected.

  5. Just Anita says:

    I’m not a sympathetic. Ignorance is no excuse. Resigning from the Romanoff campaign is a slap in the face to the community she was elected to serve. Further, she’s a pawn being thrown under Romanoff’s campaign bus. Andrea Merida needs to resign as a DPS School Board Member for crossing the line of ethics – period. Merida is an elected official, who accepted a paid position with a candidate without disclosing that relationship. In otherwords, transparency to the public wasn’t worth her time or effort, nor did she – or Romanoff – feel it was a relationship that needed review by others. Courage and tenacity are fine attributes, when it’s applied ethically. If Andrea Merida is truly the responsible caring School Board member – she and others claim her to be – she’ll resign from DPS, as well.

    Further, Merida’s resignation from the campaign doesn’t disqualify Romanoff from impropriety. Merida coveted a lot of press time. I’m certain Romanoff read every article, and turned a blind eye to any ommissions about her paid advisor status at the end of those articles. Ultimately it’s Romanoff’s campaign, and his job to know the rules to make certain his people are following the rules. Isn’t the action of a political candidate paying an elected official in exchange for services – without disclosing that relationship – bribery? Trust has been breached by Merida and Romanoff.  

  6. peacemonger says:

    Even when they definitely don’t deserve it. I hope she’ll learn from this, so she can fight like Hell for our kids within the rules. We need strong advocates for the arts in school, and for well-rounded education. I know she cares about those things as much as I do.

      • raymond1 says:

        … I mean, I don’t know Merida’s background in detail, but school board is typically a pretty entry-level elected position, held by passionate activists, political schmoozers, etc.  So the people holding it may not yet be wise in the ways of interest conflicts, staying facially neutral, etc.  The smarter ones get there after some rookie errors; hopefully Merida will, but we’ll see.

        Nice new tag line, by the way. I’d add that once every blue moon, a strong progressive can get elected in a purple state if he’s lucky, independent-minded, and unusually talented — like Feingold in Wisconsin. But we haven’t quite seen anyone like that in CO in recent years….

      • Just Anita says:

        There are many ways dynamic passionate advocates can serve within there school districts.  DPS School Board member isn’t one of them.  

  7. ThillyWabbit says:

    She shouldn’t be on a school board making policy. Andrew Romanoff can spend all the money he wants on her. She should resign from the school board immediately.

  8. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    It’s appalling that she does not understand something so basic. She should resign from DPS.

  9. Prog-Matic says:

    If she does not resign. She does not belong in elected office. She’s repeatedly shown she’s not ready for prime time.  

      • Dan WillisDan Willis says:

        basics:

        Petition needed with signatures equal to 40% of the number of votes cast in the last election for her district or 15,000, whichever is less. The number of votes in Andrea’s race in 2009 was 10,894 so 40% would be 4358. They have 60 days to collect the signatures.

        After the petition is checked by the County Clerk and declared to have enough signatures, the elected official has 5 days to resign. If they do not, a recall election is held between 45 and 75 days after the sufficiency of the petition was declared.

        At this same recall election, the successor shall also be elected. So anyone wanting to run for the seat has the same time frame to collect their 50 signatures to get on the ballot.

        My request:

        The city cannot really afford another special election, so if any one wants to seriously propose this, please use the rest of this year to get your ducks in a row and start petitioning in mid to late Jan. so the recall election would then fall on the already scheduled may municipal election day, saving the city oodles of money.

        • RedGreenRedGreen says:

          Denver could make it an all-mail election, right? (if it wasn’t scheduled the same day as the municipal vote) What’s the cost of that for a school board district?

          • Dan WillisDan Willis says:

            I don’t remember the cost of the city council special in May but any election has a big price tag and a school board district (2/5 of the city in Denver) is bigger than a council district (1/11 of the city). There is the cost of printing the ballots, mailing the ballots, and hiring the temporary staff to process the ballots.

            Another cost not required but highly expected by the public is at least one service center in the district to serve the voters who do not get their ballots.

    • OuiserBoudreaux says:

      Can’t you just vote against her the next time she runs?  Geez, people get too caught up in the moment!

  10. dwyer says:

    I have consistently supported Merida.  However, she should have disclosed that she was a paid staffer for Romanoff.  I think this does compromise the integrity of her positions and her advocacy for her constituents.

    It also should be stated that Pena, long time Board member, is the unpaid Treasurer for the Bennet campaign.  The fact that the former superintendent is running for the Senate and cites his record at DPS  is politicizing all the board’s decisions. This is unfortunate.  

  11. DevilishlyModerate says:

    I’ve crossed paths with Ms. Merida on a couple of occasions and from my experiences she is only going to hurt progressive initiatives. She pulls out all of the punches on fellow progressives.

    It’s one thing to be tough and aggressive but she takes it way to far. She’s no good for DPS.  

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