Russ Joki, who was elected a West Ada School District trustee last spring and promised a new era of accountability for the district, resigned abruptly Tuesday night.
Joki, one of several trustees targeted by a recall effort scheduled to go to a public vote May 17, said his reasons were personal and declined to discuss them. He left the meeting immediately after.
Joki, board chair Tina Dean and board member Carol Sayles are named in the recall effort. A fourth targeted board member, Julie Madsen, resigned in February, shortly after the recall effort was announced.
Joki and Sayles sought an injunction to stop the recall election, claiming recall supporters didn't gather enough signatures to force the election. A 4th District Judge ruled against them last week.
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Recall supporters complained about the board’s treatment of then-Superintendent Linda Clark, who said she resigned in October under pressure. The board later terminated her contract. Recall supporters also complained the board was not transparent and didn’t listen to district patrons.
Joki was the “driving force for the reason of the recall,” but the other trustees under recall were upholding the direction he wanted to go, said trustee Mike Vuittonet, who has been active in the recall effort.
The resignation means both trustees who were newly elected last May are gone.
Joki, a former district superintendent in Nampa and in Oregon, had a “depth of knowledge on school governance and school business,” Sayles said.
Vuittonet, who was active in the recall effort, said, “We feel like the recall is worthy. There was a reason to recall. We are doing that because we are concerned for the district.”
Dean and Sayles said Tuesday night they do not plan to resign. Joki’s surprise announcement came at the end of Tuesday’s meeting.
Vuittonet, the only elected board member not targeted for recall, and Dean both said they were surprised by the announcement. Sayles said Joki told her he might resign during a brief meeting before Tuesday’s board meeting.
The board will meet on April 12 to discuss selecting a replacement for Joki. The board named Philip Neuhoff to replace Madsen after she resigned.
Joki said he wanted to make the announcement to give trustees plenty of time to chose a successor who will fill his term, which runs through 2019.
If Joki’s replacement is seated before the recall election, the board will not face a crisis of lacking a quorum, because only two of the five members could possibly be forced out of office.
Before Joki’s resignation, three of the five trustees could have been recalled, meaning the board would not have enough trustees to meet.