Douglas County School Board President Meghann Silverthorn said she hasn’t ruled out keeping her seat if she is elected to the District 4 state Senate post in November.
But John Straayer, a political science professor at Colorado State University, said holding both seats would be problematic.
“First, it’s simply illegal,” Straayer said. “Colorado Constitution Article V, Section 8 makes that clear. Second, even if it was legal, it would put her in a position that, in some manner, could be construed as a conflict of interest.”
A spokeswoman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office also said the state constitution prevents a person from holding an elected legislative position and a local elected position at the same time. A person holding an elected office may run for a new post, but if the candidate wins, he or she would be expected to resign from the first seat, she said.
Silverthorn said she does not see a conflict of interest because she could recuse herself from votes that would affect the school district.
“There is a Colorado Senate rule on voting, 17(c), whereupon I could disclose a personal or private interest in a matter up for a vote, and would not vote on it, which would be entered into the record as such,” Silverthorn said. “I would consult with multiple resources to ensure that any actual conflicts of interest were addressed in this manner. I disagree with the premise that merely holding both seats at once is, in and of itself, a conflict of interest.”
Straayer disagreed with her premise, saying state lawmakers have the responsibility of seeing to the best policy interest of the state of Colorado.
“As a school board member, her charge is to promote the best interests of one of 178 districts — so what would she do?” Staayer said. “We know, of course, that lawmakers do look out for the interests of the constituents within their local school districts, cities, counties and so on. But that’s not quite the same as taking two oaths of office — one to represent the entire state and another to represent just one part of it.”
Silverthorn is among five candidates, all Republicans, for the Senate seat, which serves Castle Rock, Parker, Franktown, Larkspur and Castle Pines. The other hopefuls are Shawnda Dupree, Jess Loban, Benjamin Lyng and James Smallwood. The post has been occupied by Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, for the past eight years, but he is leaving because of term limits.
At the March 19 county Republican assembly, the candidates will be vying to get on the ballot for the primary election, which is in June. The winner of the primary will be on the general election ballot in November.
Silverthorn cited two local cases in which people have held two elected positions at once, but neither of those people served in the Legislature. James Geddes’ time as a University of Colorado regent overlapped with his service as a school board member, and Merlin Klotz, the Douglas County clerk and recorder, also serves on the Parker Water board.