West Bonner school board shouldn’t hold a meeting with recalled members | Opinion

Editor’s note: A magistrate judge late Friday afternoon issued a temporary restraining order blocking any actions at the West Bonner meeting that would alter the board’s structure or obligate the school district contractually or financially. The judge’s order was in response to a complaint filed by two voters who were part of the recall effort.

Original editorial:

Whatever is going on with the West Bonner school board Friday night shouldn’t even be happening.

To recap: On Tuesday, voters in the West Bonner school district overwhelmingly voted to recall two school board members responsible for hiring Branden Durst as superintendent.

On Thursday, the school board called a special meeting for Friday night. Among the agenda items is an action item to “dissolve current board of trustees.”

You don’t “dissolve” a board. Elections don’t mean you have a “new” board; it’s the same board governing your district, per Idaho code. You just have new members on that board.

Some have suggested that this is merely procedural, that this is what you do after an election. Others suggest that something more nefarious is going on.

The second item is to “Turn meeting over to the Superintendent.” Who knows what Durst would do then.

Next, the board is scheduled to “Appoint signatories,” including the superintendent.

The notion that recalled board members could meet and make any decision after they’ve been recalled is preposterous.

About two-thirds of the voters Tuesday voted to recall board chair Keith Rutledge and vice chair Susan Brown. Tuesday’s voter count of 2,162 far outpaced the previous election, when 844 people went to the polls in 2021, according to Idaho Education News.

The message was pretty loud and clear: Pack up your stuff and get out.

It shows a tremendous lack of respect for the democratic process when voters overwhelmingly vote to fire two board members, yet those board members attempt an end run around voters’ wishes by taking advantage of a 10-day window that’s a big gaping hole in state law.

Idaho Secretary of State Phil McGrane issued a statement Friday saying the recall election isn’t official until the county commissioners canvass the results, which is supposed to happen within 10 days of the election. In this case, the Bonner County commissioners are scheduled to canvass the results on Thursday.

That leaves plenty of time for shenanigans.

It’s a big, gaping hole in state code that needs to be plugged.

When legislators meet in the next session, they should pass a bill that remedies this problem, such as a “cooling-off” period, during which recalled members are prohibited from meeting or making any decisions until election results are canvassed. It would be a simple, one-sentence addition to state law.

In the meantime, West Bonner school board members shouldn’t even be meeting Friday night, let alone making any decisions.

Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion of the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board. Board members are opinion editor Scott McIntosh, opinion writer Bryan Clark, editor Chadd Cripe, newsroom editors Dana Oland and Jim Keyser and community members Mary Rohlfing and Patricia Nilsson.