After a heated debate, Denver’s Board of Education voted Thursday to appoint Charmaine Lindsay, a family law attorney, to a vacant seat on the board.

The vote followed multiple rounds of voting as board members struggled to agree on who should replace director Brad Laurvick, a pastor, who resigned from the school board after he was appointed to First United Methodist Church in Fort Collins.

“I can see where we’re headed and I’ve shared with each of you privately I’m really worried about the health of our board,” said director Carrie Olson after the board was unable to reach a decision after multiple rounds of voting.

Board president Xóchitl “Sochi” Gaytán nominated another candidate, Julie Bañuelos, who is a former bilingual teacher, noting she ran for the board in the 2019 election and is the only candidate who is Latina and a member of the LGBTQ community.

But the vote failed and during another attempt to discuss Bañuelos’s candidacy, Gaytán and another board member, Scott Esserman, argued. Esserman mentioned a Zoom meeting between him, board vice president Tay Anderson and Bañuelos, who brought an attorney to the meeting.

Gaytán supported Bañuelos, saying that “as a woman of color I understand (her actions). I understand when there’s two men who behave a certain way in an interview if you’re not sure if they’re going to come at you some kind of way you’re going to feel…”

“I will not be attacked by you in any comment,” Esserman said. “I did not behave in any way inappropriately in any interview at any point, and I will not be told I was.”

Anderson weighed in, saying, “I take great offense to that, as you painted me as an aggressive Black man trying to attack a woman.”

“I did not say that,” Gaytan said. “Those are not my words.”

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Anderson also said he could not vote for Bañuelos despite agreeing with her on issues because of how she reacted to sexual assault allegations made against him last year. A third-party investigation found the allegations were unsubstantiated.

Following the disagreement, the board voted — 4 to 2 — to pick Lindsay for the open seat, which represents northwest Denver. Lindsay will serve until the 2023 elections.

Last month when the board publicly interviewed candidates for the seat, Lindsay said she was a mediator and supports restorative justice. “I want to try to bring those kinds of solutions as opposed to just massively suspending kids in the schools,” she said.

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