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Recall II rejected; Eaton rules allegations lack legal backing

March 29, 2011 · 12:43 PM
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Foreground; Nick Power, backer of an attempted recall election of the San Juan Island School Board, rises to leave the courtroom after his petition was struck down Monday by Superior Court Judge Don Eaton. / Jane Fox

There's a changeover in store for the San Juan Island School Board. 

But it won't come via a recall election. At least not anytime soon. 

San Juan County Superior Court Judge Don Eaton ruled Monday that the allegations contained in a petition for recall of the School Board, also known as Recall II, did not meet the factual and the legal requirement necessary for the issue to be put before the voters. 

The petition’s sponsor, Nick Power of San Juan Island, maintains the five-person board of directors violated the state Open Public Meetings Act at its Jan. 11 meeting when they recessed for an executive session that lasted roughly 20 minutes.

Power argued that rather than convening in a behind-closed-doors session to discuss the performance of a district employee, the board recessed to determine a course of action to take in order to "best sell" to a room full of disgruntled parents, teachers and concerned islanders, their decision to accept the resignation of elementary school principal Gary Pflueger. 

Of the seven so-called "charges" contained in Recall II, Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord earlier determined an alleged OPMA violation was the only one with sufficient legal backing and factual evidence to be considered by the court. 

In handing down his ruling, Eaton noted state law sets out requirements that must be met in order for an accusation to be justified and for a recall election to proceed. He determined the alleged OPMA violation and claims provided to support it failed to meet those requirements, which include evidence of an "intent" to violate the law. 

While Eaton's decision puts an end to a possible recall election, whether it will dampen the dispute over the resignation of the popular principal and the board's role in setting the stage for his pending departure remains to be seen. Pflueger's resignation become effective at the end of the school. 

And come November, three positions on the school board, those held by Heidi Lopez, David McCauley and Boyd Pratt, will be up for reelection. 

 

— Scott Rasmussen

 

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