Terms officially end for recalled West Bonner trustees

Bonner County commissioners (at the desk) recognized the canvass for the Aug. 29 recall election of West Bonner school board trustees Keith Rutledge and Susan Brown on Thursday in Sandpoint.

SANDPOINT — There wasn’t an audible sigh of relief in the room but those attending Thursday’s canvassing meeting looked pleased that the recall election of two West Bonner school board trustees was officially over.

The remaining board members — Margaret Hall, Carlyn Barton and Troy Reinbold — have 90 days to appoint one trustee from zone two and one from zone four; if unsuccessful, another 30 days to select from anywhere in the school district. After 120 days, the county commission would step in and make the appointments.

Bonner County Commissioners serving as the Board of Canvassers of Election voted unanimously to accept the canvass of county clerk Mike Rosedale.

“Normally, we don’t have anybody come to these so I thank you all for coming — this is unusual,” Rosedale said.

At exactly 10:03 a.m., the four-year terms of school board trustees Keith Rutledge and Susan Brown ended quietly.

Over the last nine days, however, things were anything but quiet in Priest River. After a successful Aug. 29 recall election that drew nearly 61% voter turnout, outgoing chairman Rutledge attempted to convene the board twice — on Friday and Wednesday.

Friday was stopped following a judge’s ruling to grant an emergency temporary restraining order and Wednesday’s was canceled for unknown reasons, just before it was scheduled to begin. The lawsuit sought to restrain Rutledge and Brown from entering the district into future contractual or financial obligations, until after the canvass was done.

Although the board was limited by the injunction, Rutledge was not. He signed an amended contract for superintendent Branden Durst Tuesday, while the judge’s ruling was still in effect, according to Priest River attorney Katie Elsaesser, who filed the civil lawsuit.

Elsaesser was unavailable Thursday to comment about Rutledge’s decision to allegedly defy the court order.

The Aug. 29 voter turnout was nearly that of a presidential election, Rosedale said during the canvassing meeting.

The total number of ballots cast was 2,166 out of 3,556 registered voters, or 60.9%. Brown received 624 for recall and 322 against; Rutledge’s was 762 and 454, according to the county election results. 

“It was very high,” Rosedale said. “We had a very clear outcome. And it was a very clean election.” 

Four people voted “yes” and “no,” so the vote count is four fewer than the actual number of ballots cast, he added.

Recalling two trustees in this county has never happened before, Rosedale said. “It’s a new thing.”

He also mentioned that Friday is the filing deadline for West Bonner’s school board election on Nov. 7. Those remaining three trustees are up for re-election.

So there could be more chaos if Hall, Barton and Reinbold don’t appoint trustees before the election, because they could be defeated. They have 70 days until the canvass for the upcoming November election is officially held on Nov. 16.

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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