Editorials

Too bad it’s too late to recall the West Ada School District recall

Tina Dean, far left, and Carol Sayles will stand for recall. Russ Joki resigned before the election.
Tina Dean, far left, and Carol Sayles will stand for recall. Russ Joki resigned before the election. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

The resignations of West Ada School District board members Julie Madsen and Russell Joki leave us wondering whether the recall election that now targets Trustees Tina Dean and Carol Sayles is a case of overkill.

By May 17, Dean and Sayles will have just a little more than a year left on their four-year terms. Should either decide to run again, the patrons of Idaho’s largest school district would have ample opportunity to vote them out the old-fashioned way.

We’re no fans of recall elections except in the most extreme circumstances, which don’t appear to be present here. That said, we encourage everyone to exercise their voice and vote in this and all of the other races next month. Just be on the lookout for unintended consequences.

If either Dean or Sayles — or both — suffers defeat in the recall, there is every possibility that the surviving members of the five-person trustee panel will appoint successors who have more in common with those on the recall list than trustee Mike Vuittonet, a minority voice on the board who has supported the recall.

“Victory” by recall proponents could come with the prospects of awarding a year of incumbency to the appointed people who replace Dean and Sayles.

Why don’t we like recalls? Because of such unintended consequences. And because they interfere with the process of running, serving a term and then giving voters a chance to decide on the totality of the officials’ service. Recalls should be reserved for those linked to malfeasance or a gross lapse in ethics or judgment. Disliking someone because they hold lengthy executive sessions, don’t support the incumbent superintendent or make some other unpopular decision misses the recall threshold for us.

This recall originally targeted four of the five trustees, of course. And certainly the slate of Dean-Sayles-Madsen-Joki used blunt-force management at times, when patience and tact would have sufficed. But each was duly elected and empowered, just as those organizing the recall effort are exercising their options within existing law.

If there is a silver lining, it is that those voters who sat out recent West Ada trustee elections — and who didn’t like the result — will be more motivated to vote in future elections. The district is a $400 million corporation with the sacred responsibility of educating our children.

There is one more good thing that can come out of this West Ada trustee turmoil. Recall leaders cite a lack of transparency on the part of the board. Yet they have declined to disclose the donors who put up money to finance the recall. The number of donors may not be many and the amounts may not be large, but we don’t know, and we have only their assurances.

Idaho law does not require people running a recall to disclose those contributions. Just as an aside, we think that’s a loophole in the campaign finance rules that the Idaho Legislature needs to close.

Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@ idahostatesman.com.

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