Recall petitioner: Steady progress

By Chris Collins June 25, 2012 09:58 am

By Chris Collins

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An effort to obtain enough signatures to ask voters to recall two Baker School Board members is making steady progress, according to the chief petitioner.

Kerry McQuisten of Baker City filed petitions in late April to start the process of recalling Lynne Burroughs, board chair, and director Mark Henderson.

Petitioners must gather 913 signatures, for each petition, by 5 p.m. July 30 to move ahead with the recall, according to County Clerk Tami Green. 

McQuisten said in an email to the Baker City Herald that petition circulators have gathered several hundred signatures and are making steady progress toward their goal.

She said petitions are being circulated by 25 to 30 people from Baker City, Medical Springs, Haines and Sumpter who have volunteered to join the effort.

Recall committee volunteers also are staffing tables at Geiser-Pollman Park and at Burger Bob’s on 10th Street as time allows, she said.

McQuisten said the group will deliver the signed petitions to the Clerks Office all at one time.

If the group gathers the required number of signatures for each petition, Burroughs and Henderson would have a choice to either resign, or to submit written statements explaining why they believe they should not be recalled.

Both directors have said they will contest the recall.

If it comes to that, once Burroughs and Henderson notify the Clerk’s Office of their intentions, Green has 35 days to schedule the recall election.

The two directors would be listed separately on the ballot, so voters could, in theory, recall one but retain the other.

McQuisten said she was compelled to begin the recall campaign after the majority of the board voted to censure Kyle Knight after they found that he had released confidential employee information to the media.

Director Andrew Bryan supported the censure, but is not included in the recall.

McQuisten said earlier that she was confident that the recall of Henderson and Burroughs would be enough to change the direction of the board, which is her goal.

The board’s fifth member, Jim Longwell, joined Knight in voting against censure in an April 10 meeting.

Since then, the district has withheld confidential information from Knight and excluded him from some committee meetings.

When he attempted to attend a May executive session attended only by Burroughs and Henderson to hear an employee grievance, Henderson and Superintendent Walt Wegener threatened to call police if he refused to leave. Knight eventually left without further incident.

Earlier this month, Knight notified the district of his plans to file a federal lawsuit seeking an end to the censure. He claims it was implemented in retaliation against him for exercising his right to free speech and  deprives voters of his full representation as a school board member.

McQuisten said the board’s recent actions have left her more convinced that the recall should go forward.

“Since starting this process, Burroughs and Henderson have kicked Kyle Knight out of a Board meeting despite the fact we elected him to represent us there, and excluded Jim Longwell from receiving information in a timely enough manner for him to be able to vote on District matters and represent us,” she stated. 

“I absolutely believe it’s appropriate for the voters in this school district to make the decision on whether these two members should remain in office or be removed,” McQuisten said. “That’s what this petition does, and why I hope people will sign. This petition puts the power back in the hands of the voters.”