DENVER — Denver Public Schools quietly paid school board Vice President Auon’tai Anderson a $3,500 settlement earlier this year to help cover legal fees he incurred when the Board of Education investigated anonymous and unsubstantiated allegations of sexual assault made against him.
The settlement was never intended to be made public, according to the legal agreement, which specifies Anderson and DPS can’t acknowledge its existence or release the document — even under Colorado’s public records act — unless required by law or court order.
With Anderson’s consent, DPS released a copy of the settlement agreement Monday after The Denver Post and Chalkbeat Colorado published stories detailing the transaction and the district’s repeated refusal to release the settlement.
“It is unfathomable that any public school district would include a provision in a settlement agreement by which it commits to withhold that public record from disclosure under the Colorado Open Records Act unless ordered to do so by a court,” said Steve Zansberg, an attorney representing The Post and Chalkbeat Colorado through the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. “Colorado’s appellate courts have declared, unequivocally, on several occasions, that such contractual commitments are unenforceable because they are contrary to the state’s public policy.”
The settlement was signed in March and came out of the school board’s budget, which was more than $232,900 last fiscal year, according to expense transactions reviewed by The Post.