No recall for 3 school board members; too few signatures

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MEEKER I There will be no recall election for three veteran members of the Meeker School Board of Trustees.

George Henderson, who ran unsuccessfully for election to the school board in November 2013, took out petitions on Oct. 14 to recall board President Bill deVergie, Vice President Mindy Burke and board Secretary Marnell Bradfield because, he stated, the three board members “have failed to represent the best interests of students, teachers and taxpayers in the Meeker RE-1 School District.”
Henderson failed to turn in the petitions on Friday by 5 p.m., the deadline to collect the needed number of voter signatures to push the recalls forward.
Boots Campbell of the Rio Blanco County Clerk’s office said at 4:45 p.m. on Friday that “Mr. Henderson called about 4 p.m. this afternoon and said he will not be turning in the recall petitions.”
According to recall committee member Reed Kelly, there were roughly 12 members of the committee “officially” taking signatures and that roughly 200 signatures were obtained.
At the time he took out the petitions, Henderson issued a statement, “As Meeker School Board officers, the three have failed in their duties to uphold: 1. Proper and legal democratic procedures by ignoring the administration’s blatant circumvention of board policies and the law; 2. district policies and procedures; and overseeing proper allocation of district funds; 3. fiduciary responsibility to provide critical oversight and accountability of the Superintendent and his administration, vital in keeping the district stable and solvent; 4. governing control of the board, which they have consistently given away to administrators that do not have accountability to taxpayers; 5. clear common sense directives to administrative staff;
Also, 6. transparency of the district to the public with a culture of honesty, integrity and high moral standards; 7. concerns and grievances of students and parents asking the board to address issues, while holding administrators accountable for their actions; 8. adequate vetting and evaluation of administration employees; 9. the retention of staff based on the evaluation process and not personal vendettas; and 10. a safe and productive learning environment for students, always maintaining a stance of ‘doing what’s best for the student.’”
Rio Blanco County Clerk Nancy Amick said Henderson took out the petitions on Oct. 14, the day the 60-day clock started ticking to obtain valid signatures, meaning that Henderson had until Dec. 13 to turn the petitions in. That date was moved up one day because Dec. 13 was a Saturday.
The number of signatures needed on each petition varied due to the date the three candidates earned their most recent re-election. Amick said the signatures needed are equivalent to 40 percent of the number of voters who cast votes in that election.
DeVergie was elected most recently to office in 2013 with 1,367 electors voting, resulting in 547 valid signatures needed for recall, Amick said.
Burke and Bradfield were last elected to office in 2011 with 1,190 electors voting, meaning that 476 valid signatures must be gathered on their recall petitions. All three petitions are being handled separately, Amick said.
“We had good turnout at the last two elections, so the numbers for recall are going to be high,” Amick said in October. “There are going to be a lot of names needed, and one signature on one petition is all that counts. The voters cannot sign just one and assume they have signed all three.”
She said that in her 24 years, she has had inquiries regarding recall petitions but that she has never had recall petitions turned in.
In order to be recalled, a candidate must have been in office for at least six months and be more than six months away from the end of their term.
At the time the recall petitions were taken out, all three board members issued statements regarding the effort.
Board Vice President Mindy Burke’s statement follows: “Serving as an elected official on any board requires time, energy and sacrifice. If this recall petition comes to fruition, the public needs to know that the cost of a special recall election must be paid for by the Meeker School District. This would be money that should be spent on students of Meeker School District, not a recall vote.”
Board President deVergie’s statement follows: “There are three petitions circulating through the community requesting a special election to recall three current Meeker School Board members. My name is on one of these petitions.
“I have served on the Meeker School Board for almost five years. I am only one of seven board members and my vote only counts as one. All decisions made, are made by the board based on a majority vote of at least four members, not any one, two or three individual members.
“As the current school board president, I have no more authority than any other board member. My vote only counts as one. I have additional responsibilities and duties as the president, but no extra authority.
“During my time on the school board, I have worked with all other board members to make the best decisions possible on difficult issues that affect all aspects of our school system.
“I have voted for what I believe is best for our kids and the school district as a whole. I have worked hard, been honest and diligent in my position. I have tried to be open and as transparent as possible on issues. However, as board members, we are not allowed to discuss some details relating to personnel matters, which causes a lot of frustration within the community.
“If you are approached to sign this petition, please read the ‘General statement of grounds for recall’ on the petition. The grounds listed are very general and are directed more at the board as a whole and not a specific individual on the board.
“If there are enough signatures gathered on these petitions, there will be at least one special election where the voters can decide if any or all of these individuals should remain on the school board. The unfortunate part of this process is that if enough signatures are garnered and a special election is warranted, the school district would have to pay the entire cost of the election.
“This could cost the school district tens of thousands of dollars. In these difficult financial times, this is not what is best for our schools.”
Board Secretary/Treasurer Bradfield repeated the statement she issued at the MSD board meeting on Oct. 21:
“I ran for the Board of Education because I wanted change. I felt, as many voters did, that we had been doing the same old thing with the same old board for decades. I wanted to serve the community making this district one of the best in Colorado and I wanted our students to have the best education they could possibly have. I have not wavered from this.
“I have diligently educated myself on what it means to be a school board member and have worked very hard to stay within that scope, even when it’s unpopular or leaves me standing alone. I understand that many of the issues seem ‘cut and dried’ and ‘black and white’ from where you sit. But I assure you they are not. More often than not, the issues that have turned this board upside down and created the most controversy, haven’t had a thing to do with ‘what’s best for students.’ They are issues surrounding adults—issues created by adults—and issues perpetuated by adults. They are anything but ‘cut and dried;’ they couldn’t be any less ‘black and white,’ and they generally do not lie within the scope of board work.
“Being a school board member is hard, time-consuming work—work that I have been completely committed to for the past three years. I am prepared every meeting and take every minute of my service seriously and personally. I have done nothing illegal, immoral or unethical, and no one holds me more accountable for my opinions, decisions and votes more than I do.
“If voters wish to recall me based on this service, I can’t do a thing about that. It’s one of the things that makes this country so great—government of the people, by the people and for the people—right?”