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TRUSTEE DRAIN RESIGNS

Group may back off on recalling Fant

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POSTED August 26, 2015 1:17 a.m.

Nine months after voters dumped two incumbents their replacements are no longer on the Manteca Unified School District board.

Embattled trustee Ashley Drain tendered her official resignation Tuesday to the San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools. Alexander Bronson, the other trustee elected in November, resigned in May.

Both were dogged with accusations shortly after they filled papers to run that they did not live in the specific areas they sought to represent. For Bronson, that would have been northern Manteca and for Drain all of Lathrop, French Camp and a small sliver of Weston Ranch.

After complaints were filed with the Secretary of State’s office, an investigator from Sacramento determined they was evidence to support the accusations and forwarded their findings to the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters who in turn sent it to District Attorney Toni Salazar Verber.

Verber filed felony charges against both for voter fraud. Drain also had charges from an unrelated investigation conducted by the county filed against her for welfare fraud and grand theft. She is due back in court next week.

Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer said the board will be presented the same options for replacing Drain that they did for Bronson. Manteca Police Detective Stephen Schluer ultimately was appointed by the board to replace Bronson.

The board could also opt to call for a special election. Messer noted there is a possibility if the board opted to do so there could be an election on the upcoming November ballot. Messer said he needed to check with election officials to see if that was feasible. Typically November elections have filing periods that end in mid-August.

At any rate, based on what Messer currently understands about replacing trustees that have resigned there could be five of the seven board seats up for election in November 2016 — the ones that Bronson and Drain vacated plus seats held by Sam Fant, Deborah Romero, and Michael Seeyle.

Dale Fritchen — a former Manteca Unified board member who was helping spearhead a recall effort against Drain —  called her resignation “very good news.”

He noted Drain’s decision will save district taxpayers a significant amount of money.

Fritchen said the citizens committee was confident they could recall Drain.

They already had started circulating petitions and were having no problem collecting signatures. Fritchen said he also had filed a writ of mandate to force the recall to be by the area that Drain was elected to represent instead of at large. While voters elected Drain at large in November they also passed a measure calling for trustee elections in the future to be by area only.

Fritchen noted they had already started scheduling coffees and had secured a booth at the upcoming Pumpkin Fair in downtown Manteca to help gather additional signatures.

 Drain’s resignation may derail a recall effort that was being launched against Fant by voters dismayed with his conduct as a trustee as outlined in a scathing Grand Jury report. Some critics also contend Fant worked behind the scene to get Bronson and Drain to run.

Fritchen said the committee that was working on Drain’s recall also was targeting Fant. He expected the committee to meet and discuss the viability of recalling Fant given that he has less than 16 months left in his term. A recall election — if the effort qualifies for the ballot — in all likelihood would take place in early 2016 less than 10 months before his term expires. It would also cost significant tax dollars.

Fant has indicated that he is considering running for the Stockton City Council in November 2016.

“The school board will be much improved,” Fricthen said now that Drain has resigned.

He expressed hope that the board would find a replacement for Drain of the same caliber of Schluer.

 Within hours after the district office received official notification of Drain’s resignation, her photo and name were taken off the Manteca Unified website with the notation added that the Area 2 seat was vacant.

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