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Three may be ousted in Chatham recall vote

If results hold, board members will be removed next month

Posted: Thursday, November 22, 2007

Three of five members of the Chatham School Board were voted out of office in a recall election Tuesday, according to preliminary unofficial election results.

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If the results hold, these board members will be removed by early December.

With 31 percent of the vote-by-mail ballots counted Tuesday, voters likely have recalled board members Shelly Wilson by a 69 percent majority, Ed Gamble by a 71 percent majority and School Board President Irene Paul by a 72 percent majority, according to the state Division of Elections.

The votes already counted are likely to be the majority of the votes to be received, based on turnout rates for recent vote-by-mail elections.

Citizens requested the recall last July after accusing Gamble, Paul and Wilson of incompetence, misconduct and failure to perform prescribed duties.

"It's unfortunate," Vance Cortez-Rucker, Chatham superintendent, said.

Lillian Woodbury, Angoon resident and petitioner for the recall, welcomed the results.

"That's good news," she said.

The recall was only the sixth in state history, according to the Division of Elections.

Two board members were not named in the recall.

All three board members were unreachable Wednesday.

The recall was approved by the state Division of Elections in September and set for Nov. 20. The election was conducted entirely by mail.

The board members who were being recalled were from Angoon and Tenakee Springs.

The six rural communities in Chatham School District received 570 ballots for qualified voters, said Lori Wilson, state elections coordinator.

As of Monday, 195 ballots were returned and the election should be certified by Dec. 6, after the state allows for any ballots cast from a distance to return, Wilson said.

Cortez-Rucker has been a vocal critic of the recall process and said the election was founded on lies aimed at the board members.

"This does not bode well for accountability in the state," he said.

According to Cortez-Rucker, the board members were doing their job. Among the several accusations leveled, all three School Board members were charged with hiring two unqualified administrators.

Cortez-Rucker said board members did so in response to state-imposed sanctions after the district failed to meet state testing standards continually.

The accusations were later determined to be unfounded in an investigation, he said.

The Alaska Supreme Court ruled that "factual disputes in recall petitions should not be resolved by election officials. Rather, the public should decide the truth of the allegations against the public official in a recall election."

Woodbury said people were upset because their elected officials did not listen to public concerns and citizens wanted a chance to make a change. The goal in requesting a recall was to give the people a voice, she said.

"The voting speaks for itself," Woodbury said.

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.



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