School board recall bid leader faces bogus complaint charges



With a looming recall election swirling around culture wars in a small Colorado town, authorities have confirmed the arrest of a recall leader on spurious complaint charges.

The Woodland Park Police Department confirmed in a news release late last week the arrest of Samantha Peck, one of the leaders of a recall campaign targeting the Woodland Park School Board.

Peck is charged with a misdemeanor charge of falsely reporting an emergency to the police and a felony charge of attempting to influence a public official.

Police said on July 24 the police department received an emergency call from someone identifying themselves as Ms Peck.

David Lane, a Denver attorney representing Samantha Peck, says he is investigating whether her civil rights were violated when she was charged by Woodland Park police. (Courtesy of David Lane)

The caller said someone she knew was the school board vice president’s wife appeared to be drunk and getting into a car in the parking lot of a Safeway supermarket, preparing to leave with a small child.

Officers responding six minutes later found the driver sober and childless in the car, police said in the news release.

Peck, who was arrested Aug. 2, is free on $3,000 bond.

Having retained Denver civil rights attorney David Lane, Peck seems to be sticking to his story.

Lane, a Berkeley law graduate who has worked with the ACLU and Amnesty International in the past, said, “We are investigating whether or not this is a civil rights violation.”

“There are two conflicting versions of what happened,” Lane said. The police department’s version is one, but the other is that Peck was “seriously reporting someone who appeared to be impaired.”

“At the end of the day, what we want to do is talk to the witnesses and check the body cameras and go from there,” Lane said.

Peck reinforced the civil rights analogies in a facebook post, comparing himself to Martin Luther King and including photos of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela behind bars, and Rosa Parks taking his fingerprints.

Lane abruptly apologized for a phone call, citing a meeting with a judge, before she was asked how civil rights relates to the Peck case, who in her Facebook photos appears to be white.

Peck is the administrator of the Concerned Parents of Teller County Facebook page, one of the recall’s main online outlets.

Woodland Park police earlier in the week declined to confirm Peck’s arrest or discuss the case with The Epoch Times.

David Illingworth is Vice President of the Woodland Park RE-2 School District. The police department did not name his wife.

Illingworth was elected to the school board in the small town outside of Colorado Springs in November, part of a conservative wave winning four of the school board’s five seats in an election amplifying rapidly declining school enrollment communities and parental dissatisfaction with educational practices.

The new board quickly tackled the issues.

They began certifying a charter school that the old board had blocked, increased teachers’ salaries, kicked out the school’s principal, and ensured prior notification to parents if their children were to learn sensitive or inappropriate material for their age.

A recall campaign began almost immediately, officially launching a petition campaign in early June with 60 days to collect enough signatures to warrant a recall election against three council members, including Illingworth, David Rusterholtz and Suzanne Patterson.

At the deadline, opponents narrowly met the required signature threshold for Illingworth and Patterson but fell short for Rusterholtz.

Signatures still need to be certified by the state.

The fourth Conservative board member elected last year had already resigned after suffering serious personal attacks at board meetings.

A Colorado columnist denounced the recall campaign’s apparent use of a tactic called “swatting” originating from the video game world.

To eliminate a rival, a player falsely reports them to the police for something serious enough to warrant sending in a SWAT team.

“The innocent victim finds himself surrounded by police, guns drawn. This wastes officers’ time and resources and puts the victim and officers at risk,” wrote Krista Kafer of the Denver Post.

“When an irresponsible adolescent whose prefrontal cortex is still developing engages in this type of delinquent behavior, consideration should be given to his immaturity.

“When middle-aged women do it to harass political opponents, such a consideration should not be taken into account. Throw the book at them. They are not just harming their victims, but democracy itself .

Kafer cited another case in suburban Denver, where a former police chief’s partner anonymously reported a female councilwoman for child abuse.

The councilwoman, who was exonerated, had criticized the police chief, who later resigned. The partner was accused of filing a false complaint.

Efforts to reach Erin O’Connell, another leader of the recall movement, were unsuccessful, as were attempts to contact the Colorado Education Association, parent of the Woodland Park Education Association.

Opponents of recall argue parent group supporting it is front of union activists

Dan M. Berger

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