Turner unsure whether he’ll serve on both boards

Newly elected county commissioner is member of Meeker School Board
RBC — Kai Turner hasn’t made up his mind whether to do both — serve on the Meeker Board of Education and the Rio Blanco County Commission at the same time.
But, apparently, there’s no law preventing him from doing it.
“Turns out there is some kind of theory in old common law, that goes back several hundred years,” said Larry Kallenberger, executive director of Colorado Counties Inc. “The theory has to do with co-holding offices that are incompatible and in conflict with one another, you can’t do it.”
Turner edged the incumbent Forrest Nelson by 11 votes in the Aug. 12 Republican primary election. There were no Democrats on the ballot.
Turner said he hasn’t decided what to do.
“I don’t know yet,” he said. “I will talk to all of the other (school board) members about it.”
Pat Hooker, Rio Blanco County administrator, said the issue of serving on two elected boards at the same was a gray area, but he wasn’t aware of a statute prohibiting it.
“I’m not 100 percent sure if he can or can’t,” Hooker said. “However, commissioners, like many of us, serve on several different boards, community groups, etc. The key will be if both boards are OK with him serving on both, knowing that he’ll have to abstain from participating when the topic is directly related to the business dealings of the organization.”
Kallenberger’s research on the matter didn’t produce anything definitive, either.
“I did find a legal citation, you can’t stand for election for two offices at the same time,” Kallenberger said. “I know that’s not very certain, but that’s the best I could find.
“I suppose that’s one of the reasons it happens, because nobody challenges it. I suppose unless somebody is doing something or not doing a good job, maybe there would be a reason to challenge it.”
But it can be done. Just ask Don Batchelder of Ridgeway in Ouray County.
He did both — serve on the school board and the county commission. And he was one busy guy, he said.
“You have to be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time (doing both),” said Batchelder, whose time on the school board and county commission overlapped for more than seven years. “It is a huge time commitment, and you don’t get vacation, ever.
“But for someone who enjoys that type of thing — being in arenas where you can make a difference — I thoroughly enjoyed myself.”
Or, as Batchelder joked, “For someone with a masochistic personality, it gives them everything they want.”
Batchelder’s term on the school board ended last November. He will go off the county commission in January.
He said in the nearly eight years he did both jobs, there was only one time when it was a problem. That was over an annexation issue involving property for a new high school, which came before the county commission.
“You always worry about conflict of interest,” he said. “At that meeting, when the school issue was presented to the commissioners, I just left the room, so there was no question as far as conflict.”
Batchelder is a self-employed masonry contractor, so he can set his own schedule. When he served on both boards, he said he had to work odd hours and weekends, in order to keep up.
“If you try to hold on to a full-time job and do both (serve on two elected boards), you’re not going to do it,” he said.
Turner, like Batchelder, is self-employed. He operates his own outfitting business.
If Turner does decide to resign from the school board, a replacement would be appointed.
“What will happen is that, once Kai resigns from the board, we will advertise the vacancy asking for applications,” said Mary Strang, president of the Meeker school board. “From the applications, we’ll make an appointment of someone to fill his spot until the next school board election, which will be November 2009.”
Strang said Turner’s seat on the school board goes until 2011.
“But we will have an appointment for a year, and then someone will be elected for a two-year term in 2009,” Strang said. “This way the rotation of board member elections can stay on track.”