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West Bonner trustee recall moves forward

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Hagadone News Network | July 3, 2023 1:06 AM

PRIEST RIVER — A campaign to recall a pair of West Bonner County School District board trustees will move forward.

Enough valid signatures were collected by campaign organizers to get a recall on a ballot Aug. 29.

"I think we're going to have a huge turnout from both sides," Bonner County Clerk Michael Rosedale said.

Rosedale said petitioners were able to collect 337 valid signatures in their drive to recall board chairman Keith Rutledge. The minimum needed to prompt the recall process was 243 signatures.

In the drive to recall board vice chair Susan Brown, a total of 243 signatures were gathered. The minimum number needed to prompt the recall process was 177.

In their petition, those seeking to recall the pair said they have not been open, fair, or honest with school district residents. They accused them of having a hidden agenda and not respecting the rights of their constituents.

"(They have) shown that (they do) not have the first and greatest concerns for the educational welfare of West Bonner County School District students attending public schools,” said the petition.

Rutledge and Brown have failed to fulfill their oaths to strive to improve education and the schools in the rural school district, the petitioners contend.

The petition also cites both Rutledge and Brown as failing to recognize that a majority vote is needed to make a decision with the outcome supported by all members. The board chair needs to be actively involved in policy changes, which should only be held after publicly held board meetings.

Registered letters were sent to Rutledge and Brown on Friday. Upon receipt of the letters, they have five days to either voluntarily resign or do nothing, which would set the stage for a recall election Aug. 29.

"Hopefully they just call me or email me and say I'm not going to resign, and then I can know what the status is. If I don't hear back from them, I'll get that return receipt, and I'll know the date they got it," Rosedale said. "And as soon as the five days tick off from that I automatically have to put it on the ballot.

In Brown's zone, Zone 2, there are two precincts impacted: Oldtown with 930 registered voters and West Priest River with 552 voters that fall within the school district trustee zone.

In Rutledge's zone, Zone 4, there are four precincts impacted: East Priest River with 1,072 voters, West Priest River with 154 voters, Edgemere with 183 voters and Laclede with 508 voters.

Rosedale said roughly 27% of the registered voters in Brown's zone and 30% in Rutledge's zone voted in the last school board election.

Only the residents in Brown's school district Zone 2 and Rutledge's Zone 4 will be eligible to vote in the election.

Similar to other elections, the polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with voting in the same polling locations. Voters will be able to vote early at the clerk's office, by absentee as well as in person on Election Day.

If a resident wishes to register, they have until Aug. 4 to preregister, or they can register at the polls on Election Day with the appropriate identification.

Residents wishing to register at the polls must present a valid driver's license or official identification card, passport, military ID card, concealed carry permits and tribal ID cards. Student ID cards will no longer be accepted.

Starting July 1, the Idaho Secretary of State will issue potential voters without those forms of identification an official ID card to be used for voting only. However, Rosedale said the clerks are waiting for direction from the office on how the program will work.

"I don't know how the gears and mechanisms are going to work," he said. "If a kid comes to me on Wednesday and says, 'Hey, I want to get one of these voter ID things,' I don't really know yet how to do that. We will immediately get on the horn. In fact, I'm sure there's going to be a directive."

Early voting will start Aug. 14 and end Aug. 25. Absentee ballots must be requested no later than Aug. 18, and received by 8 p.m. Election Day. Rosedale recommended that voters who wish to vote absentee should get them as soon as they are available and not wait until the last minute to mail them in.

"If we get it at 8:01 p.m. on election night, we cannot count it by law," he added. "I mean, it's too late. Don't even get cute. Just get it in."

Information or questions: Bonner County Clerk's Office, 208-255-3631

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