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Home arrow Opinion arrow Editorials arrow Don’t sue over recall

Don’t sue over recall


We thought the recall campaign against Baker School Board Chair Lynne Burroughs and Director Mark Henderson was over.

It should be.

And indeed it would be over, had Burroughs, Henderson and Director Andrew Bryan decided Tuesday evening to let this unfortunate episode recede into history.

Instead, that trio, despite two of the three having prevailed at the ballot box less than two weeks ago, refused to let the matter rest.

Fortunately, they didn’t commit the school district to a legal morass that could linger for months.

Yet their decision to seek advice from a lawyer about the possibility of suing Kerry McQuisten, the chief petitioner in the failed campaign to recall Burroughs and Henderson, was neither necessary nor productive.

Vindictive seems to us the more appropriate adjective.

This is not about the money, the estimated $10,000 the school district will have to pay for the Dec. 11 election.

Even if the school district did sue McQuisten, and then won in court, it would recoup only that cost.

The school district’s annual budget is about $15.7 million.

The loss of $10,000 has no measurable effect on the quality of education the school district offers.

What a lawsuit would do — and, arguably, even the threat of a lawsuit, which is where things stand now — is discourage citizens from exercising their legal right to try to recall elected officials.

We opposed the attempt to recall Burroughs and Henderson, and we felt the same about two recall campaigns against Baker City Council members over the past decade or so.

But aside from our opinions about the merits of those specific recalls, we strongly support the recall petition as a valid way for citizens to seek redress against the officials who represent them.

Although we don’t think every complaint that McQuisten leveled against Burroughs and Henderson in her petition was compelling, some of them were. More importantly, none of those complaints was irresponsible or beyond the bounds of reasonable political speech.

Yet the majority of the board, by even pondering a lawsuit against McQuisten, implies to all citizens that even if they have a legitimate grievance against an elected official and they pursue a recall, they might end up footing the bill.

School Superintendent Walt Wegener, in a written report to the board, rightfully noted that making a convincing legal case that McQuisten is liable for the election costs requires “a very high standard of proof” that is “very rarely proven.”

We think the district would lose in court.

We think they’ve already lost in the court of public opinion by considering filing a lawsuit against a citizen who took her case to the voters, failed, and then accepted their verdict.

Would that the victors act as graciously.

 
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