Cheering erupts after West Bonner board meeting cancelled

Cheering parents and patrons expressed their enthusiasm Friday after a legal injunction to stop the meeting was successful.

A restraining order filed by two Bonner County voters ended Friday’s controversial West Bonner school board meeting.

Patrons started filling the seats an hour early, and when the drama ended 30 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start, it was standing-room only in the cafeteria, with more people arriving and lining up outside the building.

Despite warnings that the meeting would violate Idaho law and subvert Tuesday’s recall election results, outgoing chairman Keith Rutledge and vice chair Susan Brown scheduled an impromptu board of trustees meeting three days after being decisively recalled.

Contacted by phone Friday, trustee Margaret Hall only learned about the meeting late Thursday. And she was concerned about a number of the agenda items, including a proposal to reorganize the board.

The agenda included several action items dealing with financial obligations, the forensic audit, a possible lawsuit against the State Board of Education, updating the superintendent’s contract, two executive sessions and hiring new employees.

“Because recall elections are rare — and recall of two board members simultaneously even more rare — it’s hard to say what’s ‘normal,’” said Quinn Perry, a deputy director with the Idaho School Boards Association.

“It is easy to point out that it’s not a reflection of the community to call a special meeting on the Friday of a holiday weekend to take serious action — such as approving contracts and filing legal action — days after a high-turnout election that the community recalled. I have never heard of dissolving the board and it certainly does not give clear notice to the community of what action is actually going to be taken,” Quinn said.

The meeting surprised many in the community and prompted two citizens — Peggy Smith and Dana Douglas — to file a 29-page civil lawsuit asking for an emergency temporary restraining order. The lawsuit listed numerous reasons for requesting the injunction.

According to the lawsuit, “If Keith Rutledge, Susan Brown, and WBCSD Board are not temporarily restrained the district, employees, students, and district members, including Plaintiffs, will suffer  irreparable and immediate harm. Consequences of the rushed items the recalled Trustees seek to do, will put the district in expensive and intense litigation to unwind and are not necessary to occur in the 72 hours after the election recalled the Trustees.” 

Frustrated and nervous voters and parents packed the Priest River high school cafeteria holding signs that read, “Recalled Now leave!” At 4:30 p.m., a police officer entered the cafeteria and said the meeting was canceled because the restraining order was approved.

The room erupted in cheers.

Both Brown and Rultedge were voted off the board by a decisive margin Tuesday. The recall results take effect on Sept. 7 at 10 a.m., when they are officially proclaimed by the Board of Canvassers, according to the press release from Secretary of State Phil McGrane.

McGrane wrote, “All public officials serve at the pleasure of the people. I encourage everyone to respect the election process and the will of the people of West Bonner who voted on Tuesday.”

After numerous attempts, EdNews was unable to reach superintendent Branden Durst, Rutledge or Brown for comment.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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