It’s the $350,000 question – can a fractured and divisive Manteca Unified School District Board of Education pick a successor to fill the seat vacated by the embattled Alexander Bronson?
Or is the public, which might not necessarily agree with the selection, going to collect 900 signatures of registered voters in Area 6 and then force a standalone election in April of 2016 that would cost a fortune?
The board went ahead on a 5-1 vote – with trustee Ashley Drain who faces the same felony election fraud charges that Bronson does along with grand theft and welfare fraud charges voting in the affirmative as well — to appoint a replacement to fill the position vacated by Bronson. Bronson was elected seven months ago but — like Drain — was found by state election officials to have possibly lied about their legitimate residence in order to run for the board.
Only one of the six remaining board members, Nancy Teicheira, said that she was in favor of holding a special election outright – at a cost that could have neared $80,000 – because it should be the public who makes the decision on who represents them.
And this is before any lawsuits enter the picture.
Superintendent Jason Messer had to use a whiteboard to show the intricacies involved in the decision that was before them – noting that, upon flipping the board, several different board members are elected either at large or by the area in which they reside.
And even if an appointment doesn’t draw the ire of the citizens at large, the position that will be filled will have to be elected in November 2015, and then again in November of 2016. It won’t be until the 2018 election that the position, barring any sort of recall or anything else that could happen on the interim, will be back up for a full four-year term.
The appointee will be considered in an “at large” portion of the breakdown, and will, according to legal language, have been considered “as elected until 2018” even though the seat will be up for the remaining two years in 2016.
And while the options got the blessing from the district’s legal staff, Dale Fritchen thinks that by considering “at large” the district could very well be skirting the same legal line that got school districts in Madera in trouble because they weren’t in compliance with the California Voter Rights Act – costing those districts millions in dollars and having their entire elected board essentially thrown out until the appropriate election could be held from scratch.
Solicitations for those interested in being appointed for the seat – which consists of a large portion of Manteca around the schools McParland, Stella Brockman and Neil Hafley Elementary Schools as well as East Union High School – will begin immediately, and those wishing to be considered will have to be interviewed in a public meeting which is currently scheduled for June 23.
Fritchen took a parting shot at embattled trustee Drain when he publicly thanked Bronson for doing the right thing and stepping down – noting that the recall election against her will just end up costing more money.
“But instead there are cases of people who are refusing to resign and take the high road if they used the wrong method to get elected.”