OpenCDA

February 9, 2012

Court Strikes Down Quinn Appointment

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 8:06 am

Second District Court Judge MIchael J. Griffin

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Second Judicial District Court Judge Michael J. Griffin has ruled that the Board of Trustees of Coeur d’Alene School District 271 violated Idaho law when it appointed Wanda Quinn to succeed Edie McLachlan.

Judge Griffin’s decision took three pages.  It was elegant in its simplicity,  and Judge Griffin applied a concept that would likely be considered unique and innovative (maybe even “anarchy”) by our First District Court judges:  He read and followed Idaho law.

Here is a link to Judge Griffin’s findings of fact and conclusions of law.

It does not take an attorney to understand Judge Griffin’s decision.  The Board of Trustees of School District 271 illegally appointed Wanda Quinn to fill a vacancy that didn’t exist. McLachlan participated in the selection and election to put her successor on the Board to fill the non-existing vacancy McLachlan intended to create.

According to this morning’s article in the Coeur d’Alene Press, Board Vice-Chairman Sid Fredrickson used his best posterior-protecting language to respond to the question whether the District legal counsel had approved the action:  “As I recall, yes,” Fredrickson said.   Ah, the standard Idaho defense:  An attorney blessed it, so it’s legal.  Move along, Tom and Terri, and don’t ask questions that make life uncomfortable for your betters.

The news/views/skewspaper article also said the Board of Trustees will meet to declare a vacancy and select a replacement.  That is covered by District Policy 246.   Since the policy must be implemented at either a regularly scheduled or special Board of Trustees meeting, the process must be open to the public after being properly announced.  The “personnel action” exemption to the Idaho Open Meeting Law would not apply, because the position to be filled is an elected position.  Neither would the “pending litigation…” exemption be applicable, because the litigation has concluded.  Of course, they could say they will be discussing a legal appeal, but then they would have to exclude Plaintiffs Terri Seymour and Tom Hamilton, and there would no longer be a quorum of the Board.

Wouldn’t it have been easier if the School District 271 Board of Trustees, including former member Edie Brooks McLachlan, had just followed the law rather than trying to evade it?  As I read the Judge’s decision, nothing precludes the Board of Trustees from reappointing Quinn to fill the vacancy.

 

 

13 Comments

  1. Bill, thank you for the report documents. The district policy #246 is interesting in that it doesn’t specify in exact words that the person leaving cannot vote for their replacement. The policy has a footer that’s interesting too…it looks like some outside person was paid to produce the policy language because it has a copyright symbol and date next to the name. Here’s what it looks like:

    The Board acknowledges all or in part ©1999 Elaine Eberharter-Maki

    And what’s with the language that the “Board acknowledges all or in part”…they don’t have to approve their own policy in total?

    Comment by mary — February 9, 2012 @ 9:02 am

  2. Also, can we talk about NULL & VOID? The judge’s decision said Wanda’s appointment was null and void. How does that impact the votes she has made as chairperson of the board since last June?

    Comment by mary — February 9, 2012 @ 9:10 am

  3. Summary judgment. No facts in dispute, the law was crystal clear. Odd that Quinn and Dotson had trouble with that. A bad error on their part. Had they done the RIGHT thing in not allowing Edie to be “on the board” after they declared a “vacancy” Quinn could have been appointed and this issue would not have occurred.

    Hubris and Groupthink, the hallmarks of the “pretty people” are to blame. Again.

    Comment by Pariah — February 9, 2012 @ 10:34 am

  4. We need more judges like Judge Griffin. I thank him for restoring a little faith back into this tainted north Idaho system.

    Comment by concerned citizen — February 9, 2012 @ 10:40 am

  5. As someone pointed out elsewhere, Edie was part of the million dollar Patano gift for the Lakes Middle School fiasco. Hubris.

    Comment by Pariah — February 9, 2012 @ 11:07 am

  6. Mary

    I don’t know how “null and void” affects any actions she may have taken as the chairperson. Answering questions like yours is why the school district needs legal counsel.

    Comment by Bill — February 9, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

  7. Pariah,

    Both plaintiffs and defendants sought summary judgment. I’d love to read the briefs in support of both sides.

    Comment by Bill — February 9, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

  8. http://www.statelawyers.com/Lawyer/Profile.cfm/AttorneyID:44009

    Comment by Pariah — February 9, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

  9. Bill, could I amend your post #6 to say, “competent” legal council?

    Comment by Gary Ingram — February 9, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

  10. Gary,

    The problem with your request is that we really don’t know what advice Dodson gave his clients, nor do we know his reasoning for giving it. It is true there are shyster lawyers who will knowingly and intentionally help their clients violate the law, but there are also lawyers whose good advice is intentionally misinterpreted or completely ignored by crooked clients who are indifferent to the law. There are clients who withhold information from or outright lie to their counsel. It is also true there are lawyers who are incompetent.

    All we have been told in this case is that Fredrickson seemed to be invoking the “good faith reliance on advice of counsel” excuse to rationalize the Board of Trustees’ illegal conduct.

    Comment by Bill — February 9, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

  11. Well, I have seen a letter from Superintendent Bauman (reflecting the opinion of legal counsel Dodson) clearly stating school districts are not required to follow IDAPA. Unfortunately, Dodson failed to read the school board policy detailing the job description of Superintendent Bauman. It’s no surprise most are unfamiliar with the policy since it hadn’t been reviewed for 10 years despite another policy requiring ALL policies be reviewed once every three years. The arrogance is that eduction adminstrators leaned on their own understanding and failed to recognize the accountability factor by the state. Governing Education is unlike city government. Although the same views are held by those in power. Edie Brooks believed she could do whatever she wanted. The judge clarified that issue. Unlike city government parents retain rights in education because we never relinquish our responsibility for our children just because we drop them off at a local government school. We must have trust in those we elect to oversee our children’s day to day business. Now we have to reconsider who we trust in leadership at the district office. There are two people who stood up for what is right and we need to thank them.

    Comment by silverfox — February 11, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

  12. Here’s a comment from Tom Hamilton today on Facebook, responding to someone’s suggestion that Wanda be reappointed:

    She is certainly welcome to put her hat back in the ring although I don’t have any idea if she intends to. I will be honest with you and tell you that while this was never about Wanda, it will be difficult for me to support her reappointment. I would never besmirch her character, but I do feel she showed very poor judgement in allowing this to go to court. Don’t forget that Terri and I asked no less than 3 times for an administrative solution to this issue. One of those was a motion at a Board meeting that Wanda refused to allow to come to the table. I said all along that I never wanted this to go to court, but I would see it through if I had to. Unfortunately, that is the path they chose…

    Comment by mary — February 12, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

  13. Mary,

    I attached this comment to your newsletter post:

    While I believe the Board of Trustees of SD 271 could reappoint Wanda Quinn, it shouldn’t.

    The message that action by the BoTs would send to the public would be: “We thought we could pull a fast one on the people, but we didn’t count on two of our own to have the courage and integrity to go to court and insist we follow the law. To Terri Seymour and Tom Hamilton we, your fellow Trustees, say, ‘You wasted a lot of your own money for no other purpose than to prove we intentionally violated the law, because we don’t care. We’re going to continue to thumb our nose at Idaho’s laws and the court system and reappoint Wanda Quinn.’ ”

    That is definitely not a message the School District 271 Board of Trustees ought to send, but it might.

    Comment by Bill — February 12, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

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