AURORA| Publicly discredited APS board member Eric Nelson is pondering another run for school board and said this week he never lied about or embellished his resume — an issue that resulted in his censure by his fellow board members last year and calls for his resignation among school and Democratic Party officials.
A 2016 investigation commissioned by Aurora Public Schools and Superintendent Rico Munn last year revealed Nelson’s resume was full of inaccurate claims. The report found Nelson fabricated all four educational degrees he claimed on his biography. He represented himself as a decorated officer in the Air Force, but the inquiry revealed he was only an enlistee for several weeks. The APS investigation and stories by The Aurora Sentinel and other Denver media also revealed that Nelson misrepresented his involvement with various businesses and organizations.
One year after the scandal, Nelson remains on the board, attends community events as a school board member and is pondering running for re-election. He has since changed his resume credentials, still maintaining a hefty list of academic honors.
During an interview with The Aurora Sentinel this week about a re-election campaign for the November APS school board race, Nelson said the controversy surrounding his resume was a result of machinations by political opponents. Nelson was running for the Democratic nomination in House District 42 last year when revelations about his falsified resume came to light.
“My information has been public record. This was an attack, a political smearing by political opponents,” Nelson said. “The (APS) board members always knew what my background was.”
School board members deny that, saying they knew only what Nelson revealed to the public, until they launched their investigation last year.
When asked why his resume had been removed from the biography section for board members on the APS website, Nelson said he didn’t know.
“That’s a good question for the board,” Nelson said.
Board President Amber Drevon when asked about why Nelson’s biography was removed said the board stood behind the report on his resume.
Board member Dan Jorgensen echoed Drevon’s remarks about Nelson’s background and the findings of the report.
“I will say that I was aware only of the credentials that he represented to me and the citizens of Aurora,” Jorgensen said in an email exchange. “It took the media along with a private investigator to get to the truth of the matter. I’m now confident that voters will have the necessary information to make an informed decision in this regard should he choose to run for re-election.”
State Rep. Alec Garnett last year was leading the House Majority Project to get Democrats elected to the state House. He called on Nelson to resign at the time. Garnett said this week he still had confidence in the report commissioned by APS and by the work done in the press about Nelson after discrepancies in his resume surfaced.
“Last year there was extensive reporting to detail the great lengths that Mr. Nelson went to to falsify his record and to continue once the reporting started to try and make the falsification and forgeries. He kept going one step further in the lie that he was making to his potential constituents and to voters and to the press,” Garnett said. “I have complete confidence in our press and the process that happened last year.”
The APS board had directed Munn to remove Nelson’s information from the website on Aug. 2 during a school board meeting. After Nelson’s embellished resume came to light, he refused repeated calls from the board last year for him to resign. As a result of his refusal to step down, the board stripped Nelson of his position as Secretary of the Board and his ability to pay for expenses related to his work on the board with a district credit card. It also officially censured him on Aug. 16, with only Board Director Barbara Yamrick voting with Nelson against the move.
School board officials have pointed out that they cannot remove Nelson from the APS board because he’s an elected official. Only voters can remove Nelson, and no recall campaign was ever begun.
Since then, Nelson has continued to vote, and he makes occasional appearances in the community in his school board member capacity.
Along with actions taken by the APS school board, Rep. Mike Coffman last fall called for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate Nelson under the Stolen Valor Act, which makes fraudulent claims about military service and awards a federal crime. The Aurora Sentinel has made inquiries if an investigation had taken place but hasn’t received that information yet.
In a follow up email exchange this week with The Aurora Sentinel, Nelson said he didn’t believe the controversy has affected his ability to serve constituents.
“Oftentimes, as a public elected official, we’re faced with many trials and tribulations in our efforts of advocating for the people and for the betterment of our communities,” Nelson said in an email. “My heart is for the people! Therefore, I’m not distracted by political propaganda, motivations and attacks.”
Nelson said while he hasn’t decided if he’ll run for reelection this November, he said he would want to continue his work enhancing student safety and represent the community that elected him to the board.
“I haven’t decided yet to run for re-election. I hadn’t even thought about it, I’ve been so in the groove of trying to serve over past few years,” Nelson said.
Since the censure, Nelson has missed numerous school board meetings. He had asked the board on Aug. 16 to allow him to attend an upcoming meeting by phone. Since he had already surpassed the two meetings board members are allowed to phone into in any given year, the board rejected his request. After that meeting, he has missed 10 out of a possible 22 meetings, not enough to trigger his removal from the school board, spelled out by board policy. That policy is based on state policy for governing boards. It allows for a member to be removed from the APS board if they have three, consecutive, unexcused absences. Nelson has narrowly avoided expulsion by that policy since his censure last year, never missing more than two meetings in a row, according to APS records.
Asked about if his missed meetings have hampered his ability to serve on the board, Nelson rejected the idea completely.
“As a small business owner, oftentimes I have to adjust my schedule as such. However, the board has measures in place to accommodate such instances by allowing a member to attend meetings by phone,” Nelson said in an email. “Absolutely (I can still be effective) Yes! Regardless of life circumstances, not just in board meetings alone, I made a commitment to the citizens of Aurora who elected me to serve.”
Nelson has recently submitted new items for his biography on the APS board website. Since the bio was removed last year, the only information the website has is “Eric D. Nelson was elected in 2013 for a four-year term.”
The Aurora Sentinel has checked the items Nelson said he has submitted, which also are listed on his LinkedIn account. APS has confirmed he has submitted new items but couldn’t release them at the time.
Nelson’s resume said he’s attained a bachelor’s degree in theology, a master’s degree in divinity and a doctorate degree in theology and apologetics along with postgraduate certificates in the field of counseling and an honorary degree. The Aurora Sentinel has either had email conversations or phone calls with representatives from each organization to confirm the authenticity and received no contradictions.
The bachelor’s in theology, master’s in divinity and doctorate in theology are from schools unaccredited by any religious studies accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The school Nelson received the doctorate from, Christian Bible Institute & Seminary from Houston, Texas, on its website points out that for government-licensed positions, a degree from an accredited school might be necessary.
United Theological Seminary & Bible, which issued Nelson a master’s degree, also offers “Life Experience Degrees” which converts years of professional and personal experience directly into degrees ranging from bachelor’s to doctorates in philosophy. The cost is $100 for students who wish to obtain the degree.
Nelson’s full list of educational credentials from his LinkedIn account
B.S. in Theology from Union Bible Theological Seminary
Master of Divinity in Theology from United Theological Seminary
Doctorate degree in Theology and Apologetics from Christian Bible Institute & Seminary
Honorary Doctorate in Public Service from Denver Institute of Urban Studies and Adult College.
Multiple post-graduate certificates from The Colorado School for Family Therapy