Prosecutor downgrades 7 of 8 charges in school board recall; petition in court Wednesday, 1 p.m.

Chairman David McCauley, center, and fellow school board hear public comments about principal Gary Pflueger
Chairman David McCauley, center, and fellow school board hear public comments about principal Gary Pflueger's resignation Jan. 26 A petition seeking the recall of all five board members was filed with the county auditor's office Feb. 2.
— image credit: Jane Fox

Both sides claimed a measure of success as the petition for recall of the San Juan Island School Board heads to Superior Court with mixed reviews.

Following a legal review of the allegations outlined in the petition, Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord determined late last week that seven of the eight so-called "charges" are not ready for prime time.

Gaylord said those seven allegations lack a level of detail, such as specific dates, times and laws which the school board is alleged to have broken, and the legal backing to be put before the voters on an election ballot.

“The prosecutor’s role is to review the legal and factual sufficiency of the charges, and evaluate them for legality of writing a ballot synopsis,” Gaylord said.

He added, however, that his determination can be contested in court and the final decision on the merits of the petition, and each of the charges, will be decided by a judge at a hearing in San Juan County Superior Court.

That hearing will take place Wednesday, beginning at 1 p.m.

Authored by Nick Power of San Juan Island, the petition seeks a recall election targeting all five members of San Juan Island School District's board of directors. It was filed Feb. 2 with the county auditor, chief of the local Elections' department, in the wake of a dispute over the board's acceptance of elementary school principal Gary Plueger's resignation.

The board voted without dissent Jan. 5 to accept his resignation.

David McCauley, chairman of the embattled school board, is bolstered by the results of the legal review and believes that the one charge which did gain some traction with the prosecutor is, like the other seven, without merit.

"I am pleased that the Prosecuting Attorney has found no legal basis for

which to recommend that the court even consider seven of the eight

allegations made by Mr. Powers, and has identified serious flaws with the

eighth," McCauley said in a prepared statement. "I look forward to an expedient hearing in court at which time I expect all the allegations in Mr. Power's petition to be found to be without merit.

Among various charges contained in the recall petition, Power claims members of the board held an executive session that ran afoul of the state's Open Public Meetings Act during its Jan. 18 meeting. He maintains the board took a time out of 20 minutes or so to huddle behind closed-doors and to talk about how "to sell" its decision to the public.

Power said he is encouraged by the outcome of the prosecutor's review as well.

He maintains that the one charge with which the prosecutor found merit, the alleged Open Public Meetings Act violation, is by far the most flagrant and telling in demonstrating why each member of the board should face a recall.

“I’m enormously confident of where we are now,” Power said. “The prosecutor held onto to our strongest claim.”

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