Douglas County School Board votes to rescind letter supporting Xcel transmission lines

CALL7 exposes possible conflict of interest

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. - Douglas County's School Board voted late Tuesday night to rescind a letter for support for a controversial Xcel Energy project, after the CALL7 Investigators exposed a possible conflict of interest.

Board President Kevin Larsen said Tuesday he mistakenly believed the letter, sent in May to Colorado's Public Utilities Commission, had been included on the consent agenda for the board's May 6 meeting. He then signed the letter after that meeting, on behalf of the board.

"I regret that error in process," Larsen said.

The letter backed Xcel Energy's plans to run new transmission lines through Parker, which many neighbors have opposed. It calls the project "critical" and reads in part, "we strongly recommend" approval.

The letter lists the names of each board member, including board Vice President Douglas Benevento, who is also Vice President of Public Affairs for Xcel Energy.  A DCSD representative told CALL7 Investigator Keli Rabon that Benevento has recused himself of any discussions related to the project, and Xcel in general.

Larsen said Tuesday that district staff drafted the letter for him to sign, but maintained his support of its content.

Board member James Geddes moved that the board withdraw the letter, and draft a new one expressing the district's concerns regarding placement of transmission lines near current or future school sites, but staying out of additional discussion about where the lines should be placed instead.

That motion passed 4-2, with Larsen and board member Craig Richardson opposed.

Benevento did not attend Tuesday's meeting. According to the district representative, his absence was excused and due to a previous commitment.

Larsen told fellow board members Benevento would not be involved in the process of submitting a new letter.

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