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.
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.