Molalla resident will try to recall school board members
Molalla resident Michael Giard announced Thursday that he will file petitions in January to recall several school board members.
He told The Pioneer those members are Neal Lucht, Mark Lucht, Craig Loughridge and Linda Eskridge.
Eskridge has recently been under fire for bringing a parents' rights proclamation before her fellow board members that came from an apparently anti-LGBTQ group and for comments she made following the board's adoption of the proclamation. The board voted Dec. 12 on whether to remove her as chair. In a 4-3 vote, she stayed.
"I was on the fence regarding a few of these seats until last week's meeting when they all voted to retain Linda as chair," Giard said. "To me, their actions exemplified what I feel is wrong with the board, and basically condones her recent actions."
Mark Lucht, however, described his reason for maintaining the chair following the controversy, noting that the school board works as a team.
"One person was being the scapegoat for a mistake that all of us made, except the one person that voted against it," Mark Lucht said. "Even with that, it was a board action."
Mark Lucht said he regretted not seeking further information on the group when his peer Jennifer Satter had pointed out that the proclamation came from the Parents Rights in Education group.
But the proclamation controversy isn't the only reason for Giard's announcement. He further delineated his reasoning for filing the recall petitions in a public comment at the board's Dec. 19 meeting.
"I have been coming to these meetings since July and have repeatedly begged you to listen to the community, to hear the community," Giard said, "to adhere to your stated core principles and actively solicit the feedback of the community...In response you have ignored me, and everyone else that has come in front of you."
Mark Lucht said he would advocate against a recall effort, expressing instead that most differences of opinion can be resolved when people sit down and talk.
Mark Lucht said he is always willing to sit down with members of the community to listen to concerns and has done so with several residents, including Giard, regarding athletics.
At the end of his public comment Dec. 19, Giard urged board members to consider voluntarily stepping down before the proceedings take place.
"I'm not going to take his warm, fuzzy advice to step down before I get embarrassed," Neal Lucht said. "That's about all I have to say about it at this point."
Eskridge was equally as brief in her response to the announcement, saying, "He can do whatever he needs to do."
Loughridge too expressed difficulty formulating any comment at this point.
"I'm frankly flabbergasted...I guess that's all I can say right now," Loughridge said. "I'm still trying to process what this gentleman is trying to get out of the board and out of this particular process in general."
Giard previously told The Pioneer that his goal with the complaints and comments was to get a school facilities bond passed, though he made no mention of a bond in his announcement of his recall intentions.
On this topic, Loughridge maintained that this board has been unified and committed to passing a school facilities bond. He said members of this board and one previous member, Liz Cruthers, have worked both as a board and as individuals on these efforts.
It is within a resident's power to file a petition to recall a publicly elected official after the official has been in office for at least six months. Eskridge and Neal Lucht were both elected in 2019 with their terms effective in July, which is why Giard will wait until January to file.
But the process is more involved than simply filing a petition, according to the Oregon Secretary of State. Giard must garner signatures amounting to 15 percent of the city's votes for governor in the last election, which Giard said is 1,400 signatures he must collect for each of his four petitions. If the required number of signatures are verified, then the elected official may either resign or submit a statement of justification. If the elected official does not resign within five days, then an election must be held to recall the official.
If any of the recalls were successful, the remaining board members would appoint new individuals to serve the recalled board members' remaining terms.
Giard declined to say whether he would apply for a board position if any of the recall efforts were successful.
"Any recall effort, I trust the process; and if that's the will of the people, of course I would go along with what the people vote for," Mark Lucht said. "I would advocate against it. The simple reason is that the remaining board members would appoint someone as opposed to the people electing someone. So, unless there's gross misconduct, I would much rather see us go the route of letting the people decide through the normal election process and not giving so much of the power to three remaining board members."
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