West Ada recall: Shake-ups on school board before election, so what’s next?

West Ada Trustee Carol Sayles, who represents Zone 3, says she will not resign before the recall, as two other trustees have.
West Ada Trustee Carol Sayles, who represents Zone 3, says she will not resign before the recall, as two other trustees have.

Russell Joki’s unexpected resignation from the West Ada School Board on Tuesday shook up the politics of a board where shake-ups are practically the norm.

Q: Why did he leave?

He said he resigned for personal reasons but wouldn’t talk about them. He has said that the reasons are not related to the recall election.

Q: Now that Joki has resigned, will his name still be on the ballot for May 17 election in West Ada School District?

Yes. The ballot is set, said Phil McGrane, Ada County chief deputy clerk. The first absentee ballots were mailed out last Friday, so the ballot can’t change, he said.

Q: Joki was perhaps the most outspoken trustee on the board. Now that he is gone, will the recall effort draw much interest?

Hard to tell. Recall backers say they are still pursuing the recall of Tina Dean, the board chairwoman, and Carol Sayles. Remember, this isn’t a recall in which voters cast their ballot districtwide. Dean is from Zone 1, in the western section of the West Ada School District, and Sayles is from Zone 3, in the eastern section. Voters in each zone will decide whether the trustee from their zone will go or stay.

Q: How long have they been on the board?

Both trustees were elected in 2013. They would face re-election in May 2017. If they are recalled, their replacements also would face voters in May 2017, when their terms would expire. Julie Madsen and Joki were elected last spring to four-year terms.

Q: What’s next?

The immediate task is to find a replacement for Joki.

Q: How is that done?

Idaho law allows trustees to fill a vacancy on the board. Whoever they choose would not face an election until May 2019, when Joki’s term would have been up.

Q: How will the remaining board members choose a new trustee?

No details yet. The board is expected to make that decision at a meeting April 12. The trustees went through this process in March when the board sought a replacement for Madsen, who resigned in February rather than face the recall election. Remaining trustees first sought to begin interviews for new candidates within four days of her resignation, but backed off when they realized they hadn’t posted an announcement of their meeting in enough time to meet the state’s open-meetings law.

Eventually, the board interviewed five candidates. Four trustee candidates submitted their applications several days before the meeting. A fifth showed up the night the board conducted interviews. That candidate, Philip Neuhoff, was chosen with no chance for the public to vet his application. The board took some criticism for not being transparent in that decision.

Q: When does the new trustee begin work?

Once a trustee is selected, that person can begin at the board’s next meeting.