We wrote just over a week ago about the sudden departure from the Jefferson County Public Schools communications department of Lisa Pinto, the highly controversial GOP operative-turned district chief communications officer whose brief tenure was marked by disastrous press for the school district and conservative board majority, rapidly escalating tensions with district staff and teachers, and most recently several ugly incidents of alleged bullying of minor students by board members that also involved Pinto.
Since last week’s resignation announcement, there’s been total radio silence from the normally talkative Jeffco school board regarding Pinto and the state of relations between the conservative board majority and district employees, parents, and students. The exact reasons for Pinto’s sudden departure have not been revealed by the district, leaving observers to speculate. It hasn’t been revealed even whether a replacement for Pinto is being sought.
One of the major points of contention from Pinto’s time as chief communications officer was the hiring of outside paid public relations consultants from Republican comms shop Novitas Communications. And based on a memo on administrative staff hires from late last month, it appears that Novitas employees may be moving in to stay:
5. CENTRAL BASED ADMINISTRATIVE POSITION
A. Specialist, Marketing and Communication Crean, Devan 05/18/2015
Devan Crean will lead the development and implementation of marketing strategy and execution for all Jeffco Public Schools increasing awareness of available school options. Education Information: 2012, M.P.A., University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming. 2013-present, Revealing Politics, Denver, Colorado.
That’s right–Devan Crean, former employee of Republican-aligned advocacy group Revealing Politics and subsequently with Novitas Communications, is taking a full-time communications position with Jeffco Schools. Our readers will recall a scandal that erupted last February during the GOP state chairman race, after Crean came to the defense of a fellow Revealing Politics staffer with fellow Republicans by insisting that her organization “ONLY tracks politicians and policy makers who are left-leaning. We DO NOT track fellow Republicans.” This was a rather large problem for Crean’s employers since Revealing Politics is technically a nonpartisan organization–and soon after this incident, Crean’s name quietly vanished from Revealing Politics’ staff page.
A short time after that, Crean appeared in Novitas’ staff directory–just as that firm received a contract from Jefferson County Public Schools to run PR for the board majority. It’s therefore quite curious that Novitas, with its big contract to supply communications services to the district, is not listed in the memo above as Crean’s past employer. Maybe because this arrangement would have raised eyebrows?
Obviously, school district employees are allowed to have political opinions. But Crean is not just opinionated, she is a full-time conservative political operative much like Lisa Pinto was. Crean’s hiring by the district, given everything we can find about her, seems even more questionable than the hiring of Pinto, which ended in disgrace for everyone concerned–especially Superintendent Dan McMinimee, who by most accounts selected Pinto over a number of more qualified candidates for the job of chief communications officer.
Perhaps the only silver lining to be found here for longsuffering opponents of the Jeffco school board’s right wing majority is that Crean, like Pinto, is probably not going to be very good at her new job. That may in turn reflect poorly on higher-value targets like McMinimee and the board in the end, but not until after Crean draws her taxpayer-funded salary for at least a few months. Regardless, it is a curious decision for McMinimee to hire someone whose resume would indicate the same general problems that he had with Pinto.
Call it a lesson unlearned.