How much detail should candidates running for elected office provide to prove their own backgrounds?

Posted at 8:01 PM, Jun 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-22 22:39:50-04

The Aurora School Board has given one of their own an ultimatum: resign or defend your resume.

Five of seven board members believe Eric Nelson should resign following discrepancies revealed, in part by Denver7, about his schooling, work employment and military background.

When the Aurora School Board president Amber Drevon was asked why they're asking Nelson to resign, she replied by saying it all comes down to honesty and transparency. 

"Board members have the responsibility to be honest and transparent with their community, and I believe that any allegations of non-adherence to this responsibility by any elected official, warrants a response from the Board," said Drevon. "That is why we're asking the district administration to do a comprehensive review of his credentials and provide that to us."

On Tuesday night, Drevon said Nelson should notify her of his resignation by the end of the week.

"I have no intention of resigning from this board. The people of Aurora elected me to do this job and that's exactly what I'm going to do," said Nelson on Tuesday night.

"What happens if, at the end of the week, he does not put his letter of resignation on your desk?" asked Denver7 reporter Marshall Zelinger.

"Then Monday morning, I will ask the Superintendent to initiate that comprehensive review and also include in there, the legal analysis of the Board's authority," said Drevon.

After reviewing one of Nelson's diplomas, Denver7 found a half dozen flaws that reveal it is a fake diploma. The University of Colorado Denver also confirmed that he did not teach there, despite a reference on his biography. And a review of his military history does not support the medals he was wearing while photographed in an Air Force uniform.

In April, the Denver Public Schools Board of Education appointed MiDian Holmes to take over a vacated spot on the school board. She quickly resigned following reports of a more detailed criminal history than the school board previous was made aware.

"Does there need to be a better vetting process with elected representatives?" asked Zelinger.

"I would encourage all community members to take an active role in the political process, ask tough questions of their candidates, especially when it comes to local elections," said Drevon.

Drevon's own biography indicated she graduated from the University of Denver.

"I haven't vetted that for myself. How does that make you feel, now that I look at that and wonder, 'well, is that really true'?"

"I feel fine about my credentials, anybody can ask me for any proof that they would like and I would be more than willing to provide that," said Drevon.

The school board cannot fire Nelson. He is an elected representative and can only be removed from office is he were to resign or be recalled through a voter initiative.

Denver7 has learned that Nelson holds a high position within the local lodge of the Masonic Order and has been a Mason for eight years. A source told Denver7 that "this matter is under investigation by the Grand Lodge."

-- Questions about Nelson's military background -- 

Questions about Nelson’s military service came up after a report by the Colorado Statesman focused on a photograph of Nelson in a decorated Air Force uniform that was reportedly posted on Nelson’s Facebook page. That photograph has reportedly since been taken down. 

Denver7 showed the photograph to the Air Force, which tells us the photograph shows Nelson wearing 10 ribbons on his uniform.  The Department of Defense confirms Nelson was an active duty Air Force member from April 16, 1998 to June 18, 1998, but said they have no awards or decorations on file for Nelson.

-- Questions about Nelson's Education -- 

Nelson's campaign website and his Aurora School Board biography notes that he earned "a Master of Social Work from Northwest Nazarene University." Denver7 contacted the school, which had no record of Nelson.

Last week, Denver7 Reporter Marshall Zelinger obtained a photograph of Nelson's diploma that Nelson sent via text message to the The Aurora Sentinel and The Colorado Statesman.

Zelinger confirmed multiple problems with the diploma.

(PHOTO: The Aurora Sentinel)

  1. The crest at the bottom middle is misspelled. (It says "Notthwest.")
  2. School officials stated that they offer a "Master of Social Work" but not a "Master of Science."
  3. The social work degree has only been around since 2002, but the diploma states 1999.
  4. Magna Cum Laude is a designation for undergraduates.
  5. The cursive paragraphs reference "Glassboro College" in "Glassboro, New Jersey." Glassboro was a school until 1992 when its name was changed to Rowan College of New Jersey.
  6. He would have been 20 years old in May of 1999.

There are also questions about his education at the University of Colorado-Denver.

"He also sent me two emails to show as proof of his teaching at University of Colorado Denver, which has no record of him," Zelinger stated.

One was a recommendation letter from an assistant professor in the Ethnic Studies Department, who said Nelson "has been employed in various teaching-related positions and was readily available when called upon."

The other was an email from the University in November 2014 entitled, "Welcome to the University of Colorado Denver," with a user account for the school's portal.

Nelson has a Democratic primary for House District 42 in Aurora. He's facing Dominique "Nikki" Jackson on the June 28 mail-in ballot. The winner will face Republican Mike Donald for the seat currently held by State Rep. Rhonda Fields.


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