White Pine board chair resigns after tense public exchange

UPDATED, Dec. 9 at 11:23 a.m., with Adam Frugoli’s announcement that he will run to replace outgoing state Sen. Dean Mortimer.

IDAHO FALLS — White Pine Charter School Board Chairman Adam Frugoli abruptly resigned after a heated exchange with local parent and former charter board candidate Amber Beck.

Adam Frugoli

The exchange and resignation happened at a Monday board meeting and marked the latest in the school board’s ongoing effort to reorganize itself amid fallout from a botched May school board election plagued with allegations of electioneering.

Monday’s dispute culminated with Frugoli’s request to have local authorities remove Beck from the meeting, according to a recording obtained by EdNews.

Beck gave public testimony lambasting the board’s secretive approval of an investigation into the bungled election. She also called repeatedly for Frugoli’s resignation.

“You owe it to the board to do the right thing,” she said.

Frugoli told Beck she had exceeded the board’s three-minute limit for input. Beck refused to end her comments.

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“Ms. Beck, you are holding this board hostage,” Frugoli said, before attempting to adjourn the meeting and asking an administrator to call the sheriff.

“Don’t bother,” Beck fired back. “They won’t be here by the time I sit down.”

Beck ended her testimony, and the board resumed the meeting by swearing in three trustees elected last month in a followup to May’s ill-fated election. Beck was a candidate in both elections and had served as a White Pine trustee from 2015 to 2018.

Mark Duncanson, Emma Lee Robinson and Jim Seamans emerged as new board members in the latest election. The newly formed board selected Robinson as chair on Monday, a position Frugoli had held on an interim basis.

Following Robinson’s appointment, Frugoli made his own announcement.

“I’m sorry Amber has so much resentment and animosity,” Frugoli said. “I’m going to give Ms. Beck her wish and make my resignation effective immediately.”

Beck told EdNews afterward that Frugoli’s resignation likely stemmed from Robinson’s appointment as board chair.

Frugoli, second vice chairman of the local Republican Party and a precinct committeeman, said his decision to resign followed state Sen. Dean Mortimer’s recent decision not seek re-election. Frugoli announced Friday on Twitter that he will run to replace Mortimer. Idaho Falls local Kevin Cook also announced his plan to run, the Post Register reported.

The official filing period for candidates opens March 2.  The primaries will be held in May, with the general election following on Nov. 3.

How’d we get here?

After the May election, the school launched an investigation into electioneering complaints against trustee Joanna Stark.

Attorney Doug Nelson found that Stark had made “strong statements of advocacy” for candidates Robinson and Beck. Yet those actions did not violate the state’s electioneering law, Nelson said. Stark denied any wrongdoing.

Nelson also found procedural problems with the May election, including no way to track who had voted. And some paper ballots were thrown away after milk was inadvertently spilled on them.

Nelson’s own investigation was plagued with problems. Trustees approved the investigation in executive session, committing to spend at least $10,877 in public funds and violating Idaho’s open meeting law in the process.

What’s next?

Citing concerns with its online security system, White Pine used only paper ballots in its followup election.

Trustees will soon begin a search for Frugoli’s replacement, said White Pine Principal Jeremy Clarke. Currently, the board includes:

  • Emma Lee Robinson, chair
  • Joni Larsen, vice chair
  • Jim Seamans, secretary
  • Mark Duncanson, treasurer
  • Joanna Stark
  • Ethan Huffman

White Pine’s enrollment increased by about 70 students this year. It now serves some 600 kindergarten through ninth-graders.

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. Devin co-hosts "Beyond the Books" online news segments in conjunction with EastIdahoNews.com. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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