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Aurora House candidate Eric Nelson once deemed 'not competent, trustworthy, of good moral character'

Posted: 1:04 PM, Jun 14, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-15 04:53:55Z

An Aurora School Board member running for state office was deemed not "competent, trustworthy and of good moral character" by a state licensing board.

Democratic candidate Eric Nelson is running for State Representative in Aurora's District 42, which is being vacated by State Rep. Rhonda Fields as she runs for State Senate.

Nelson has a primary on June 28 against Dominique "Nikki" Jackson for the Democratic nomination. The winner will take on Republican Mike Donald.

Based on the information obtained by Denver7, Democrats are calling on Nelson to stop running for office and support his opponent.

Documents reviewed by Denver7 in the last month reveal a criminal history and a scathing letter from the Department of Regulatory Agencies, denying Nelson a license in 2010 to be a bail bondsman.

"The Division reviewed your application and has DENIED your new application for licensure as an insurance producer with bail bond authority," wrote the Director of Compliance and Investigations for DORA.

The first reason for denial was:

"Failure to demonstrate that you are competent, trustworthy and of good moral character, and of good business reputation."

Denver7 interviewed Nelson on Friday.

"Why did they say that you were not 'competent, trustworthy and of good moral character?'" Denver7 Political Reporter Marshall Zelinger asked Nelson.

"I have no idea, Marshall. When you think about the standard responses that they include on these applications after they deny things, I have no idea why they would put that because it goes against who I am as a man. It goes against who I am as my character," said Nelson.

DORA confirmed for Denver7 that this language was specific to Nelson's application and not a form letter.

Other reasons included:

  • "Obtaining or attempting to obtain any such license through misrepresentation or fraud."
  • "The use of fraudulent, coercive or dishonest practices or demonstrating incompetence, untrustworthiness, or financial irresponsibility in this state or elsewhere."

Nelson appealed the denial. In response, DORA provided the following information.

DORA noted that on his July 2009 application for a bail bondsman license, Nelson answered "no" to the question:

"Have you been convicted of, or are you currently charged with, committing a crime, whether or not adjudication was withheld? 'Crime' includes a misdemeanor, felony, or military offense. You may exclude misdemeanor traffic citations and juvenile offenses. 'Convicted' includes, but is not limited to, having been found guilty by verdict of a judge or jury, having entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, having been given probation, or a suspected sentence or fine."

DORA determined that Nelson should have answered "'yes' due to his guilty plea entered on May 7, 2009 for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, in Aurora Municipal court, and his guilty plea entered on May 19, 2009 for battery, a misdemeanor, in Aurora Municipal court."

DORA also determined that Nelson said "no" when he should have said "yes" to having a suspended bail bondsman license previously.

"What should people know about your history?" asked Zelinger.

"One of the things that people should know about my history is that I'm a good man, who has dedicated his life, in not only serving his country, but also serving the community the last 16 years that I've lived in Aurora," said Nelson.

On his campaign website, Nelson briefly references his past:

"Eric has faced economic challenges and overcame barriers himself within the legal system."

"What is fair game about your criminal past?" asked Zelinger.

"I believe fair game would be if I have gotten involved or committed any crimes recently, that the public would be concerned about. I think that'd be fair game," said Nelson.

A check of his criminal history shows a guilty plea for a domestic violence assault misdemeanor in 2002. He also was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident in Georgia in 1999. The court records show he served 10 days in jail.

"What should a voter know about those situations?" asked Zelinger.

"What voters should know is that at a particular point in my life, I made some mistakes, but I'm much wiser now, and that's one of the biggest reasons that I'm running," said Nelson.

Nelson was elected to the Aurora School Board in 2013.

According to the Colorado Association of School Boards, the eligibility to be a school board member is as follows:

"A candidate for the school board must be a registered voter and a resident of the school district for at least 12 consecutive months prior to the election. If the school district has director districts in its plan of representation, the person must be a resident of the director district in which he or she is a candidate. No person who has been convicted of a sexual offense against a child is eligible to serve on the school board. Because school director elections are nonpartisan, candidates may not campaign as members of a political party."

Nelson's website doesn't mention his criminal history, but states:

"For persons with criminal records, even minor arrest records, politically-motivated barriers to earning an honest living lead to more crimes, more victims, more broken lives and the expenditure of more taxpayer dollars."

"It's on there not only because of my history, but many of the residents that I represent," said Nelson.

"How does even minor arrest records stop you from earning an honest living?" asked Zelinger.

"It goes against a person's character. It puts that ding on the person's record to where people can judge them based on their past. And I'm a firm believer that your past does not dictate what your future is," said Nelson.

Court records also show that in 2001, a woman in Georgia sought an annulment from Nelson because she discovered he was currently married to someone else. The woman in Georgia wanted an annulment because "the respondent has a living spouse of an undissolved marriage." The records show that the woman was trying to find a current Colorado address for Nelson so he could be served with the court papers.

Nelson told Denver7 that he had no direct knowledge of those documents and or filings.

"I moved on with my life and resided in Colorado since 2000, long after the separation of that marriage," said Nelson.

The House Majority Project, which is an arm of the Colorado Democratic Party that focuses on helping Democrats maintain the House majority has called on Nelson to end his campaign.

"We have called on Mr. Nelson to drop out of the race. I would strongly urge Mr. Nelson to drop out of the race," said House Majority Chair, State Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver.

"Is this stuff the House Majority Project should have known about in his past, while determining if he was a viable candidate?" asked Zelinger.

"There were allegations that hadn't been proven, and when we heard about additional proof of those allegations and additional misrepresentations, it got to a level where we took the unprecedented action, where we thought it was appropriate for the House Majority Project to step in and endorse Mr. Nelson's opponent."

Denver7 checked with the United States Air Force, which could not find any record of Nelson using his birthday.

The Colorado Statesman published a story on Monday night that also revealed questions about Nelson's military background and education.

"Although the specifics of his claims have changed over the years, Nelson says he’s earned numerous advanced degrees — as many as seven have shown up on various resumes — including a master’s degree from a university that says he was never enrolled there.

Asked by The Statesman early Monday afternoon why the Northeastern University registrar’s office in Boston said the school had no record of him, Nelson promised to email copies of his diploma and academic records but six hours later hadn’t sent anything.

In earlier versions of his resume, Nelson describes himself as an Air Force veteran and has also been fond of posting photographs of himself on social media in a captain’s uniform, despite having been an active duty member of the service for just eight weeks, according to Department of Defense documents."

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.

Both websites also state that he has taught as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver. A check of the school's records showed no record of Nelson teaching at University of Colorado Denver.

On Tuesday night, Aurora School Board President Amber Devron emailed Denver7 the following statement:

"The APS Board of Education recently learned about the allegations regarding Eric Nelson. We take this matter seriously. The Board will review all facts and take appropriate action, as needed.”

"Even if there's a bad egg within our party, we're willing to stand up and say that those moral traits and those character traits are important for elected leaders down at the Capitol," said Garnett. "Even though the timing's awkward, we thought it was important to show leadership and step in at this time."

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst also put out a statement asking Nelson to withdraw, while endorsing Jackson:

"I was shocked to see the information that has been reported over the last two days regarding the serious issues in Eric Nelson’s background. The people of Colorado have the right to expect the highest levels of integrity from their elected officials; with the information that has come to light, it’s clear that Eric Nelson does not represent the Democratic Party and is not fit to be elected to the state legislature in Colorado. I call on him to withdraw from the House District 42 race in Aurora and I enthusiastically endorse his Democratic primary opponent, Dominique Jackson, for the June 28th primary election. I believe Dominique will be an excellent representative for the people of Aurora."

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Marshall Zelinger  is a Peabody Award-winning journalist. He covers politics, breaking news and investigations for Denver7 and co-hosts  Politics Unplugged  on Sunday afternoons on Denver7. Follow him on  Twitter  and  Facebook . Email your story tips to Marshall at  Marshall@thedenverchannel.com .

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