Ferndale School District board recall, California, 2009

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On April 2, 2009, the Ferndale School Board Recall Committee began collecting signatures to force a recall election against Ferndale Unified School District board of trustees members Danette Lentz and Susan Petersen.[1]

The Humboldt County Office of Education stated that it was not responsible to go through with a recall election, subsequently defeating the recall efforts.[2]

Recall effort

On April 1, 2009, the Humboldt County Elections Office approved the petition for recall against the two board members, which meant the committee had 60 days from that date to gather signatures from 1/4 of the registered voters, or 458 individuals.[1]

Complaints

The committee's spokesman, Art Berri, alleged that the board violated the state's open meeting law, or the Ralph M. Brown Act, multiple times. "The board doesn't seem to listen to the community and is constantly violating the Brown Act," Barri said. "Arrogance is the perfect description of the three board members."[1]

The main complaint was in regards to a February 2009 meeting in which the board voted to place Superintendent Sam Garamendi on administrative leave, and appointed Denise Jones as Interim Superintendent, all without word of the action until their next meeting.

However, Humboldt County Office of Education legal counsel Steve Hartsell said that no aspect of the Brown Act had been violated, pointing to a loophole in the law that allows the board to defer notice of an action that impacts the employment status of a public employee, "until the first public meeting following the exhaustion of administrative remedies, if any."[1]

At the time the recall effort was launched, the board was paying Jones $612 a day, which would amount to over $220,000 a year. Garamendi was receiving $90,000 per year and threatening to sue the district if the board didn't extend his contract.[1]

For the recall committee, it was not about the qualifications of Jones, but rather the expense of it all. "It's the fact that we are spending so much money when teachers are being pink-slipped and the fact that the district will be sued by Mr. Garamendi," Barri said. "People didn't think we were going to go through with the recall, but the only way we will stop is if at least one of the board members resigns. All we really want is a fair board and won't have that if they are always locked in a 3 to 2 vote."[1]

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