PRIEST RIVER — The Idaho School Boards Association confirmed that three trustees are required to establish a quorum at West Bonner board meetings.
So when one of three trustees skipped Wednesday’s regular board meeting it was canceled, triggering concern in the community as the Nov. 7 election date nears.
“We’re in unusual circumstances here,” said Quinn Perry, the ISBA’s deputy director. “I have never seen a five-member school board only act with two trustees, and we believe that they need all three to have a quorum.”
The two trustees who attended Wednesday canceled the regular meeting because they lacked a quorum. Margaret Hall and Carlyn Barton attended while Troy Reinbold did not. The five-person board is down to three following last month’s recall election of Keith Rutledge and Susan Brown.
“There is no question whatsoever,” said West Bonner leader Branden Durst, about the need for three trustees.
Idaho Code 33-510 governs quorums and reads “a quorum for the transaction of business of the board of trustees shall consist of a majority of the members of the board.”
Acting board chair Hall said she is planning to schedule a meeting next week. But what if Reinbold does not attend, again?
“I think we need to step back and realize they are volunteer members. These things happen,” Durst said. “I don’t have any reason to believe Reinbold was acting nefariously.”
Idaho Education News has been unable to reach Reinbold. Durst speculated that he may be completing construction projects before winter weather sets in.
“I don’t know what his work schedule looks like but his prior history is attending almost all the meetings, so I assume that will be the case,” Durst said.
Retired teacher and recall organizer Candy Turner of Priest River disagrees. “This is one of his strategies — not to be involved. I think the Idaho Freedom Foundation group we have up here has told him not to do it. Stay away and wait for the re-election.”
Turner, whose five children attended West Bonner schools, is concerned his repeated absences at future meetings will put the district in “a real bind.”
Quinn said the implications of a non-performing board include the inability to hire new employees, pay bills, declare vacancies and deal with other necessary business to maintain operations of a public school.
But according to Durst, he has the authority to fulfill some of those essential responsibilities.
The board’s inability to hold a regular meeting Wednesday “makes things more complicated for us at the district office,” Durst said. But a board-appointed leader can act on behalf of the board in emergency situations or in some cases if the district will incur a fiscal loss, Durst said. “In the absence of board action, as the superintendent, I can make decisions.”
Idaho Code 33-513 says a superintendent “shall be the executive officer of the board of trustees with such powers and duties as the board may prescribe (and) shall also act as the authorized representative of the district whenever such is required.”
“I have authority as chief executive officer bestowed by board policy and the contract I signed,” he said.
His examples include an emergency hire, paying an invoice, entering into a contract or placing an employee on paid administrative leave.
The school board vacancies
According to Idaho law, the board has to first declare the vacancies during a meeting. Then the trustees have 90 days to appoint someone from the zone where the vacancy occurred. If they fail to find a suitable replacement, they are allowed to appoint someone from anywhere in the district. If they are still unsuccessful after 120 days, the county commission makes the appointment.
Hall, Barton and Reinbold all face re-election on Nov. 7 and each has an opponent. If Reinbold does not return, the board cannot begin the process of appointing Rutledge’s and Brown’s replacements by declaring a vacancy. That decision would be left to the newly elected trustees who take office in January.
If Reinbold remains absent for the remainder of the year, it appears that his seat is not in jeopardy until after the regular board meeting in December. He is allowed to miss three consecutive regular meetings without violating statute. Reinbold could remain absent, be removed from the board in December, and then rejoin the board in January, if re-elected.
Idaho Code 33-504 reads, “A vacancy shall be declared by the board of trustees when any nominee has been elected but has failed to … attend four consecutive regular meetings of the board.”
Special board meetings — like the one West Bonner is planning next week — are not considered the same as the 12 regular board meetings held each month. Missing special meetings is not the same as missing regular meetings. To read more about the code that governs board meetings, see this link.
State Board of Education spokesperson Mike Keckler said he could not comment today without first consulting with legal counsel, who was unavailable today.