Recall effort targets Everett School Board members

A former Everett School Board candidate seeks to recall all five current board members, alleging they failed to have an auditing committee as required by state law.

Rodman Reynolds asserts that such a failure constitutes a violation of their oath of office, according to documents filed with the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office.

Seeing school vouchers on the school board’s consent agenda isn’t the same as auditing the district’s financial accounts, Reynolds said.

“An auditing committee is an essential internal control for fraud, waste or abuse,” Reynolds said Thursday. “That’s not an indictment of the actual practices of the district. There may not be anything wrong.

“I think we’ll all feel better whether we increase taxes, bonds and levies if we know that complete and robust oversight is put into place,” Reynolds said.

Jeff Russell, school board president, said the school board does have an auditing committee, which is composed of all members of the school board.

“We feel it’s not wise to assign two to three board members to that committee when every board member should be involved in oversight and auditing functions of the district’s finances,” Russell said.

The case is scheduled for a hearing in Snohomish County Superior Court on April 5. That date falls during the school district’s spring break, so the school board has asked for a different date so that most board members would be able to attend, Russell said.

State law requires all school districts with enrollments of more than 2,000 pupils to have their accounts audited by a committee of board members chosen “in such manner as the board so determines,” according to the state attorney general’s office.

Getting approval to launch a recall against the school board could involve overcoming some fairly significant obstacles.

Even if a school board is required by law to have an auditing committee, “the question would be … whether that would rise to the level of misfeasance or malfeasance where a court would authorize a recall petition to be circulated,” said Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government.

“To me it sounds unlikely,” he said.

One of the legal requirements for recall is the neglect or knowing failure by an elective public officer to perform faithfully a duty imposed by law, according to the state attorney general’s office.

Michael Wilson, a spokesman for the Washington State School Directors Association, said that the organization doesn’t specifically track how each of the state’s school districts meets the law’s requirements.

“It would be pretty rare for a board to use the term auditing committee,” he said. “They typically operate as a committee of the whole.”

If a Snohomish County Superior Court judge allows the recall to move ahead, recall petitions would need to be signed by 25 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the elections when each board member was elected, according to the county auditor’s office.

Reynolds was one of six candidates running in 2011 for an open seat on the school baord. The race was won by Pam LaSesne.

This is the second recall effort by Reynolds involving the school board. In 2011, he sought to recall Russell, accusing him of limiting what information gets into the official record of public meetings.

That recall request was denied by Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ronald Castleberry.

The school board called a special meeting on March 22 to approve having an attorney from the Seattle law firm of Perkins Coie represent them in the latest recall effort.

Four separate motions were approved to provide legal representation for each of the board members in attendance. School board member Jessica Olson did not attend the meeting.

Russell said the board considered waiting until its regular March 26 meeting to take the vote, but wanted to expedite action because the case tentatively had been scheduled for this week.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com

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