Embattled West Bonner school board leaders face recall next month

PRIEST RIVER — Two embattled West Bonner School Board leaders rejected calls for their resignation and will face their constituents in next month’s recall election.

Organizers gathered the required number of signatures to recall school board chair Keith Rutledge and vice chair Susan Brown. The tumult stems from the board’s selection of Branden Durst as the district’s new superintendent.

Although school boards are not partisan races, both trustees ran as Republicans. EdNews has been unable to reach either trustee for comment.

Board Vice Chair Susan Brown

The hiring of Durst created an outcry in the community and discord between patrons and trustees, resulting in several contentious school board meetings. Durst is a former Democratic lawmaker and Republican state superintendent candidate, who most recently was an analyst for the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Bonner County Clerk Michael Rosedale confirmed Friday that neither trustee resigned. So now the recall election is set for Aug. 29.

“This will be handled the same as any other election,” Rosedale said during a phone interview.

The county clerk’s office will be sending out notice of elections, publishing the notice online and in the newspaper, creating the sample ballots, and conducting media interviews with local radio stations.

Voters in only two trustee zones are going to the polls: zones two and four.

Board Chair Keith Rutledge

Zone two includes the precincts of Old Town and West Priest River. There are 1,482 voters in that precinct.

Meanwhile, zone four includes East Priest River, Edgemire, Laclede and a small contingency from West Priest River. There are 1,917 voters in those four precincts.

Rosedale said if voters are unsure of their  voting precincts, to call his office at 255-3631 and provide your name.

“My office can tell you,” he said.

Like any election, voters can request absentee ballots in advance, those who want to vote early can stop by the clerk’s office, and the polls in those five precincts will be open on election day.

Rosedale cautioned absentee voters to get it done early. “If you’re voting absentee, request it early and mail it early.”

“If you know how you want to vote, just get it in,” he said.  In addition to using the Postal Service, there is one secure drop box inside the clerk’s office.

The polls close at 8 p.m., and if an absentee ballot arrives later than that, it won’t be counted, Rosedale said.

Also be sure to use a clear, legible signature, because Rosedale’s office positively identifies each one.

“I can tell it’s their handwriting,” he said. “If I can’t tell, I’ll contact them.” But if there’s no contact information on file, the vote won’t count.

Expect early and absentee ballot voting results around 8:30 p.m., with final results expected around midnight, Rosedale said.

The number of voters supporting the recall must surpass the number of voters supporting the officeholder in the previous election — for Rutledge that threshold is 245 votes and for Brown it’s 177.

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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