Investigator’s report to Aurora school board: Nelson lied, fabricated multiple degrees and credentials

The APS board is scheduled to discuss Johnson’s report at its regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 2. Pending additional legal counsel, it is unclear what additional prohibitions the board could pursue.

AURORA | Aurora Public Schools Board Director Eric Nelson, who became mired in a scandal that called into question his academic and professional credentials earlier this summer, lied about and embellished several points on his résumé, a report conducted by a private investigator and solicited by APS confirmed.

Eric NelsonIn a July 28 report conducted by Denver-based private investigator Rick Johnson, Nelson was confirmed to have fabricated four college degrees — three of which have corresponding diplomas which were determined to be phony — at least one teaching position as an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado, and several military fabrications tethered to a brief stint in the U.S. Air Force.

“It appears he was only an enlistee in the Air Force for several weeks,” according to the report. That’s despite the fact that there are photos of Nelson in which he is seen sporting nearly a dozen military honors and decorations. The decorations were deemed to be out of order following a review by members of the United States Air Force Reserve at nearby Buckley Air Force Base, according to the report.

The report outlined a litany of other flubs related to Nelson’s embattled résumé, including fraudulently claimed memberships with the Rocky Mountain Association of Black Psychologists and the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado Board.

A screenshot from the private investigator's report shows a falsified degree, provided by Nelson, from Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho. The second of the two certificates is a legitimate degree, provided by the university, granted the same year Nelson alleged to have received his certificate from NNU.Allegations concerning Nelson’s credentials initially surfaced in a report published by The Colorado Statesman in June. The APS Board of Education stripped Nelson of his non-statutory board duties after a majority of the seven-member board called for his resignation in a show-of-hands vote at a regularly scheduled June 28 meeting.

Nelson has repeatedly refused to heed the multiple calls for him to step down from his post on the school board. Several notable Democrats, including State House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder) and HD42 Rep. Rhonda Fields, also called for Nelson to rescind his position. Nelson was a candidate to replace Fields as state representative in HD42, but handily lost the June primary to his challenger, Dominique “Nikki” Jackson.

The APS board is scheduled to discuss Johnson’s report at its regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 2. Pending additional legal counsel, it is unclear what additional prohibitions the board could pursue. Nelson meets the legal standard for a school board member due to the fact that he is over the age of 18, is a U.S. citizen and resides within district boundaries.

“You don’t have to have any qualifications to run (for school board) other than be 18 years old and basically vertical and breathing,” Johnson said. “It’s no fault of the school board. The rules are what the rule as are.”

Nelson was elected in the 2013 general election to a four-year term.

Johnson’s report states that several representatives from the private investigation firm tried to contact Nelson, although their attempts were ultimately unsuccessful.

Johnson, who has analyzed several public corruption scandals in Colorado dating back to the 1980s, said that Nelson exhibited behaviors that are common in tainted public officials.

“These guys usually have common traits: power, ego, sex and money,” Johnson said. “In this guy (Nelson) you’ve got ego. This guy thinks he’s a legend in his own mind, and he self-marinates in this stuff. He wants to be something he’s not. He marinates in it. Who does that? He can’t separate truth from fiction.”

In a Facebook comment, APS school board director Cathy Wildman said that APS students, families and community members “deserve better.”

“Aurora Public Schools spent tax dollars to determine the truth,” Wildman wrote. “I hope that our legislative body, in the future, will establish standards for school board members and those who hold public office. I am concerned when he (Nelson) willingly and knowingly continues with these behaviors.

Nelson did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

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