Legal questions persist about who would fill the vacant seats if all three Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25 trustees up for a March 9 recall election were to be removed from office, even as early voting is underway.
On the same ballot in which the school district will ask voters to re-approve a $9.25 million supplemental levy, trustees Dave Mattson, Jackie Cranor and Janie Gebhardt will be up for a recall election.
Those leading the recall effort have argued the three school board members went too far in their policies to keep School District 25 students and staff safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many recall effort supporters are also upset at the school board’s decision to retire the Pocatello High School Indians mascot.
Under Idaho law, a quorum of the five-member school board would be needed to refill vacant seats. If all three trustees were to be removed, officials agree a quorum would not be possible by the remaining two board members.
School District 25 administrators, the school district’s attorney and officials with the Idaho School Boards Association reason the Bannock County Commission would then fill a single seat, restoring a quorum to the school board. With three members, the board would then have the ability to fill the remaining two seats, under the school district’s interpretation.
The county’s attorney, Matt Kerbs, and officials with the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office, however, reportedly interpret the law differently, believing it would be the Bannock County Commission’s duty to fill all three school board seats in the event that all three board members are recalled on March 9, Bannock County officials said.
Bannock County Clerk Jason Dixon said he’s reached out to other county clerks, the Idaho School Boards Association and the Secretary of State’s Office and found no resolution to the two different interpretations of state law regarding the matter.
Scott Crowther, chief of staff for the Bannock County Commission, said there have been no formal discussions on the issue yet, and there have simply been “a lot of hypothetical questions coming up about it.” Crowther anticipates the issue will be thoroughly discussed during a future public meeting.
“For us we’ll have to wait and see what happens and we’ll move forward accordingly,” Crowther said.
Quinn Perry, policy and government affairs director with the Idaho School Boards Association, believes state code is clear that the county’s duties would be fulfilled upon restoring a quorum to the school board.
“It’s the duty of the board to fill vacancies,” Perry said. “It’s the duty of the county commission to make sure (the school board has) a quorum.”
For a recall to succeed, a majority of voters must cast their ballots to remove a trustee from office, and the total number of votes cast must be equal to or greater than the number of votes that put the trustee in office.
The Bannock County Elections Office, located at 141 N. Sixth Ave. in Pocatello, opened for early walk-in voting on Monday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The last day of early voting will be March 5.