One West Ada trustee recall is on; one recall is off

Tean Dean
Tina Dean

The recall drive against four West Ada school trustees remains a go — and organizers expect to turn in petitions next week.

“We’re pretty confident that we have the signatures that are needed,” recall organizer Christine Donnell told Idaho Education News Tuesday.

If that turns out to be the case, School Board chairwoman Tina Dean and trustees Russell Joki, Julie Madsen and Carol Sayles could face recall elections on May 17.

This recall drive in Idaho’s largest school district dates back to last fall — and months of public infighting between the four trustees and then-Superintendent Linda Clark.

Russ Joki
Russell Joki

Clark resigned on Oct. 23, saying trustees forced her off the job, a claim disputed by trustees. In December, the school board hired former Lakeland district Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells to the top post.

The four trustees have become “very quiet and very compliant” since the launch of the recall effort, said Donnell, a former superintendent in the Meridian-area school district. But recall organizers aren’t convinced Ranells will be able to work with the trustees in the long run.

Monday is the deadline for recall organizers to turn in petitions to the Ada County elections office. The county will have 15 days to certify petitions. Once that happens, trustees will have five days to decide whether to resign or face a recall in May.

Julie Madsen
Julie Madsen

A recall election faces two hurdles at the polls. A majority of voters must vote to recall a trustee — and the total number of votes supporting a recall must exceed the number of votes a trustee received in the most recent election. And those numbers can vary widely; Madsen was elected in May with 523 votes, while Dean won a three-person race in 2013 with 188 votes.

Meanwhile, a second recall election — this one targeting West Ada trustee Mike Vuittonet — has been suspended.

Carol Sayles
Carol Sayles

A group calling itself Veterans to Recall Mike Vuittonet had begun gathering signatures to oust the board’s senior member, a Clark backer. Organizers cited several reasons for calling off the effort — including the “smooth transition” to hire Ranells, and the potential $30,000 cost of the recall election.

Nonetheless, the tension between the two recall campaigns remains evident.

In a prepared statement, the Vuittonet recall group took a swipe at the rival recall group.

Mike Vuittonet
Mike Vuittonet

“We do not want to be associated with the conduct of their political action committee and dark money that is funding out-of-state signature gatherers.”

On Tuesday, Donnell characterized her group’s petition drive as a volunteer effort.

“We’ve had a lot of people who were willing to walk in the cold and the rain,” she said.