Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Recall underway to oust West Bonner school trustees

Staff Writer | June 29, 2023 1:00 AM

PRIEST RIVER — A recall effort is underway to oust West Bonner County School District board chair Keith Rutledge and vice chair Susan Brown.

Draft petitions, with the signatures of at least 20 valid electors, were submitted to the Bonner County Clerk earlier this month. This is a requirement prior to circulating a petition to collect the number of signatures needed to get a recall on a ballot.

The circulated and signed recall petitions were delivered Tuesday to Bonner County Clerk Michael Rosedale, who said the signatures on the petitions are now being counted and verified to ensure each signer lives in the appropriate West Bonner County School District zone.

"[Rutledge and Brown need] to be open, fair, and honest," those seeking the recall state in the petition. "He has a hidden agenda and doesn't respect the rights of his constituents and the opinion and ideas of his fellow board members … (They have) shown that (they do) not have the first and greatest concerns for the educational welfare of West Bonner County School District students attending public schools.”

Rosedale expects to complete the signature count by Friday afternoon.

While a few signatures were not verified, either because they don't live in the appropriate district or the signatures don't appear to match, Rosedale said the threshold for both board members appears to have been met.

"It looks like they will have more than enough," the county clerk said.

To get a recall on the ballot, petitioners needed to collect at least 243 signatures for Rutledge and 180 signatures for Brown.

Once the signatures have been counted and verified, the board trustees will be notified by email and registered mail. They then have five days to either voluntarily resign or do nothing, which would set the stage for a recall election on Aug. 29.

Only the residents in Brown's school district Zone 2 and Rutledge's Zone 4 will be eligible to vote in the election.

For the recall to be successful, at least 245 people would need to vote in favor of removing Rutledge from office, and be at least one vote more than those seeking to retain him. For Brown, those seeking to remove her from office would need to total at least 177 votes and be at least one vote more than those seeking to retain her.

If the recall elections are successful, the school district would be notified and the pair would no longer be on the school board. The remaining school board members would then appoint individuals from those zones who would serve the remainder of the terms.

The petitioners contend that Rutledge and Brown have failed to fulfill their oaths to strive to improve education and the schools in the rural school district.

Among the reasons cited for the recall was the purchase of a language arts curriculum that was rescinded by the board just two months later. The district was forced to pay to send the order back.

The residents also contend that both Rutledge and Brown fail to recognize that a majority vote is needed to make a decision with the outcome supported by all members. The board chair needs to be actively involved in policy changes, which should only be held after publicly held board meetings.