DENVER (CBS4) – The Colorado Association of School Boards is reviewing its use of the 5 Star Broadmoor Hotel for its annual conferences. It comes after news that Denver Public Schools has been billed by at least one board member for stays there during tough economic times.
The Broadmoor has long stood out as one of Colorado’s most prestigious hotels, and it’s also been the longtime home of the Colorado Association of School Board’s annual convention. But now with education budgets under extreme scrutiny the image of board members gathering there while their schools are suffering may be the wrong one.
“Given that it’s the Broadmoor, I didn’t want that on my credit card so I paid it out of my pocket,” Denver Public Schools Board President Nate Easley said.
Records reveal the only Denver school board member who billed the taxpayers last year for the $250 per day stay for four nights was Andrea Merida. In fact, Education News Colorado revealed she was more than $7,000 over the allotted $5,000 total annual expenses allowed. She was one of three Denver school board members who exceeded that limit in the last fiscal year including Easley, who was $462 over.
“Whether or not they pay back is between them and their constituents. That being said I think it’s important for me to lead as board chairman,” Easley said. “So, immediately I admitted it. I wrote a check to the district to make up the difference.”
Since Merida was so far over her limit, CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger went over her records. It’s filled with charges to the DPS credit card for thousands of dollars in restaurants. Most are modest in style. They are labeled as constituent meetings in many cases.
At a Pizza Hut there is a bill for $374 for a pizza party. There are also charges for bookstores, video rentals and flowers. Merida has now indicated she will pay back at least some of the money on those bills.
The head of the Colorado Association of School Boards defended the use of the Broadmoor saying they get special off-season rates for guest and conference rooms, but acknowledged the use of the hotel is under review.