By Chris Collins
Petitioners seeking the recall of two school board members submitted signatures to the Baker County Clerk's Office for verification Monday.
The group, led by chief petitioner Kerry McQuisten of Baker City, is seeking the recall of Lynne Burroughs, board chair, and director Mark Henderson.
Recall supporters contend that the two directors overstepped their authority when they voted to censure their fellow board member Kyle Knight this spring.
Burroughs, Henderson and director Andrew Bryan approved the censure after the three concluded that Knight violated his oath of office by releasing confidential information to the media and violating other aspects of district policy. Bryan is not included in the recall.
Director Jim Longwell joined Knight in voting against censure.
McQuisten said petition circulators gathered 1,066 signatures to recall Burroughs and 1,059 signatures to recall Henderson.
At least 913 valid signatures, for each board member, are required to force a recall election.
County Clerk Tami Green said Tuesday that her staff has 10 days to verify the signatures. To be valid, the petitions must be signed by people who live within the school district boundaries and who were registered voters when they signed.
McQuisten said petition circulators tried to ensure that only registered voters signed, but they gathered more signatures than were needed as a buffer against people who might have signed the petitions not knowing they were ineligible.
If circulators reach the 913-signature threshold for both Burroughs and Henderson, each would have five days to resign or give a statement of justification for why they should be retained. There would be separate ballots for each director.
Burroughs and Henderson plan to contest the recall. Both said they will wait to see whether the election will go forward before commenting further, however.
"I will be kind of surprised if they get the numbers," Henderson said. "They got more than I would have guessed, I'll give them credit for that."
If the petitions include enough valid signatures, Green will have 35 days to schedule an election. Based on the most recent recall election in which two City Council members were subjects of a failed recall, Green expects the election would cost more than $10,000. The expense would be borne by the school district.
McQuisten said the board members could save the district the expense if they would resign rather than force the election.
"If they listen to the message the community has just sent them, they'll take that option and save the time and expense of a special election," she wrote in an email to the Baker City Herald. "The opportunity to save those election funds is in their court."
McQuisten filed the recall against the two in late April. She said Tuesday that she continues to believe that asking voters to decide whether to keep Burroughs and Henderson on the board is the right course of action.
McQuisten said she decided not to include Bryan in the recall.
"We'll see how it goes," she said, adding that she believes removing Burroughs and Henderson from the board will "change the whole dynamic of how that board operates."
McQuisten said she would like to see the board be "more transparent to the public and recognize that they serve the public."
She's not interested in serving on the board and will consider her work done after the recall is put to a vote.
"Hopefully people from the community will step up and the board will go from there," McQuisten said.
But that will take time. For now, the petitioners' activities are limited while the County Clerk's office completes its tasks.
"All we can do is sit and wait," McQuisten said.