The West Bonner County Sheriff’s department is investigating a criminal complaint against West Bonner School District trustee Troy Reinbold for nonfeasance as a public official.
The West Bonner school board has been unable to have a meeting because Reinbold has been absent and therefore, school business has ground to a halt. The five-member board was reduced to three following the August recall of two board members. The board needs three for a quorum to meet.
In the span of 41 days since the recall, Reinbold participated in only one of five scheduled meetings and that was by phone and for only 28 minutes so only a handful duties were performed. At that meeting, he requested certain action items be removed from the agenda before he would attend, according to the other two members of the board. This week, he announced that a family emergency will preclude him from attending further meetings by phone or in person.
This week, the board was unable to interview and select candidates to fill the two open vacancies, as was planned, because of Reinbold’s continued absence.
“We’re definitely looking into it, and does it appear that there’s a crime here,” said Phil Stella, a detective sergeant with the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office.
Stella said they will investigate the intention of Reinbold’s actions, which could fall under Idaho Code 18-315 — Omission of Public Duty. The code, in part, states “every willful omission to perform any duty enjoined by law upon any public officer, or person holding any public trust or employment, where no special provision shall have been made for the punishment of such delinquency, is punishable as a misdemeanor.”
“Obviously, missing a meeting is not a crime. However, it is possible, purposely missing a meeting(s) with the intent of preventing the entity from holding a meeting because a quorum is necessary could rise to that level,” said Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall.
Sandy Brower, a former West Bonner trustee who was an organizer of the recall, complained to the prosecutor about Reinbold.
“I just want Troy to do his job. I want him to uphold his oath and do what is best for our district and kids,” said Brower, who ran unopposed for a city council seat and will start in January.
Brower said she’s tried to contact Reinbold numerous times without success. Idaho Education News has made more than 10 attempts to reach Reinbold by phone and email. There’s been no response.
Jonathan Welch, who has two children attending West Bonner schools, echoed Brower’s frustration. “I am concerned about Troy not showing up because the board is at a standstill. Everybody is pretty frustrated by it and not sure what to do,” he said.
Stella said while the sheriff’s office is investigating, the prosecutor is looking into case law because the statute is very vague.
“(Brower) hasn’t made a report so I’ve got to start with her. If Mr. Reinbold will talk to me, I would be willing to talk to him,” Stella said.
Brower said: “He knows the district cannot conduct business without him. The students, staff and community deserve accountability. I hope that he makes himself available and things move forward for our district.”
Requests for help
The frustrated Priest River community pulled together in August and ousted former trustees Keith Rutledge and Susan Brown, who were the driving force behind the controversial hiring of school leader Branden Durst. The community hoped that the successful recall would usher in a new board. But Reinbold’s absences have halted the board’s ability to meet and conduct business without a quorum.
“Can and should one elected official be allowed to hold the district hostage?” Brower asked the prosecutor’s office.
The three-person board’s dysfunction is a new twist on a saga that started in early spring with the failure of supplemental levy proposal and the hiring of Durst. The State Board of Education and State Department of Education fielded repeated messages for assistance throughout the summer, but they are constrained by law.
“The community isn’t sure where to turn because we’re in completely uncharted waters right now,” Welch said.
In a response to one constituent, SDE communications director Scott Graf wrote, “Much of the day-to-day control of a local district resides with the locally-elected board of trustees and their chosen administrators. As such, there are limited circumstances in which the state has the authority to intervene and direct a local district in its day-to-day operations. Specifically, the state is not authorized to force a local district to follow district policy.”
Through a public records request, EdNews obtained correspondence between West Bonner parents and the state. The following paragraphs represent a portion of those outreach messages.
Tracy Naccarato. “As you well know our district is in trouble. I am emailing to ask for any help at all before we lose our schools. Brandon Durst is NOT qualified and should NOT be doing the things he is doing to our district. It is very difficult to believe that there is no one to keep a school board in check when they do so many wrong things. Why is there no one?”
Penny Whitaker. “Hello, my name is Penny Whitaker and I live in the West Bonner County School District. I am writing to ask for your help regarding our troubled school district or that you pass this letter on to someone who can help us.”
Merrilee Brumley. “As I’m sure you have heard, the WBCSD is in havoc mode right now. The majority of the school board has voted Branden Durst in as our superintendent. The majority of the patrons of the district are vehemently against this hiring but do not know where to turn. If you have any advice for us please respond to this email.”
Savanna Jones. “I am truly concerned for our district and my children’s safety if Durst is hired.”
Dan Brown. “I have three grade-school age kids who start next week, so this latest twist is a little concerning … along with no teacher contracts, no budget, no identified bus routes yet and the list goes on.”
Billy Mullaley. “Just so you are aware before the meeting started a man, name unknown, was out front in line with an assault rifle. The city police asked and he said he was going to the meeting. They talked him out of it. Please, if there is anything you can do or direct me to someone that can help. I do not want our town on the 5 o’clock news about a mass shooting.”
Brenna Saccone. “If there is any way you can intervene, I beg you to intervene! Our students, staff and community cannot thrive with Mr. Durst.”
Ernie Schoeffel. “I urge you to look into this. We, the patrons, need your help as the board doesn’t seem to want to take our input into consideration. The students need your help. Their future is at stake. Our whole community needs your help.”
DeeAnn Brennan. “I am asking for you to please decline an emergency certification for Branden Durst. There are too many red flags with his history and lack of experience in a public school education. He is not what this district needs and there is no reason to give him an emergency certification. This is a very serious situation for students, teachers, parents and families, and the community at large.”
Paul Turco. “I am also requesting that you do not consider Brenden Durst for any certifications. I fear he is a failed politician using this district as a stepping stone and is not the right fit for our community and our kids. We are doing everything we can to recall our school board members who have tyrannically been leading this district astray.”
The district’s compliancy
The State Board did step in to notify West Bonner in mid-August to correct a number of state law compliance issues. On Thursday, Graf provided a list of compliance issues the state is monitoring.
Federal Programs. The SDE staff in the Federal Programs Department is monitoring two compliance issues, including what is necessary for West Bonner to receive its CSI-Up (Comprehensive School Improvement) allocation. The district has yet to submit its School Wide Improvement Plan, which is required for the allocation to be granted.
Special Education. There are several aspects of the West Bonner Special Ed program that is being monitored, including some that change the way the district can spend special education funding. It should be noted that some previous issues have been resolved, but several are still outstanding, said the SDE.
Student Transportation. One bus is currently being shown as out of compliance for being past due on an inspection. This may be a clerical error on the district’s part and not reflective of whether the inspection has occurred, said the SDE.
Child Nutrition. As part of the department’s five-year procurement review, the SDE is waiting on the West Bonner school board to approve local policy 7400P3. The procurement review is considered outstanding until this approval is received. And while the SDE could withhold funding from the district’s school lunch program, it has not done so based on the impact it would have.
Public School Finance. After submitting its annual budget to the SDE with a series of errors, the district was made aware that it would need to submit an amended budget. As of now, that amended budget has not been submitted. Also, the district has not submitted its annual salary schedule. The district has met its required enrollment and attendance deadlines.
Elizabeth Glazier will challenge Reinbold for the Zone 3 seat at the Nov. 7 election. Reinbold has passed out flyers in the community but EdNews has been unable to locate an election page with details about his platform and accomplishments. He reportedly has an event planned for Oct. 22, from 4-6 p.m. at HooDoo Cafe in Priest River. It’s unclear if that’s been canceled. Glazier has an election page with dates for upcoming events and details about how she intends to govern on the school board. Use this link to find out more about Glazier.