- Collan Fitzpatrick
- D-11 board members Eric Christen (right) and Willie Breazell
Board members in Colorado Springs' largest school district posed a curious question to citizens during last week's meeting: Who's the bully?
The debate began with a frequent occurrence -- board president Sandy Shakes gaveling down director Eric Christen for interrupting.
"Maddening isn't it?" Christen said with a grin on his face and his eyes locked on Shakes. "Maddening."
Shakes struck her gavel, calling for a five-minute recess.
"You're a bully," a man in the audience shouted at Christen.
The game of "Who's the bully?" has percolated since last December, when the board voted to reprimand Christen for intimidating district employees and abuse of power. The bitterly divided board voted 4 to 3 on that matter, with Christen's allies, Craig Cox and Willie Breazell, taking his side, and Christen also voting on his own behalf.
Cox continued his defense of Christen last week. "Who's the bully?" he asked the audience. "You can say, 'Bully, bully, bully,' but the majority needs to mature a little, too, in how they handle meetings."
Cox pointed to Shakes' constant use of the gavel to control discussion and an incident two weeks ago when a citizen, Toby Norton, was escorted from the building after a hallway altercation with Shakes. That came moments after a board meeting had degenerated into a shouting match.
Shakes defended her actions in a later interview. "These guys bully," she said of Christen, Cox and Breazell. In the past, she has highlighted what she says is Christen's threat to wage "guerilla warfare" on the district until the November election, when his political slate, including Breazell and Cox, could gain a pro- voucher majority on the board.
"If kids behaved the way some of these board members do," said Bob Null, a likely candidate against Christen's faction in the election, "they'd be expelled."