Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How does the school board fill a vacancy?

UPDATE 5/25/16: Last night, the board voted to move ahead with an appointment process to fill the vacancy. I supported the motion, simply because the state statutes appear to require us to at least begin such a process, and because there is no harm in talking about an appointment. I’m still inclined, however, to think that an election makes a lot of sense. Some other board members also recognized the potential value of filling the seat through an election.

We scheduled a special board meeting for June 7 to decide whether to make an appointment. Applications for the appointment are due by 4 p.m. on June 1; the application form is here. See the timeline here. Again, applicants should understand that the board may end up letting the seat go to election rather than appoint someone. Failure to submit an application for the appointment will not affect your eligibility to run as a candidate if there is a special election; that is a separate process.

As I mentioned below, it is also possible that people could file a petition to skip the appointment process and go straight to an election. That petition would have to be filed by June 2. If such a petition is filed and validated, we would cancel our June 7 special meeting.


Because of the resignation of one of our board members, Tom Yates, the school board now has a vacancy to fill. As I understand it, this is how the law handles school board vacancies.

State law says that the school board “shall” fill a vacancy by appointment. However, there are two potentially applicable situations under which the vacancy may be filled through an election. First, if the board does not agree on an appointment within thirty days of the vacancy, then there has to be a special election to fill the vacancy. The vacancy occurred on May 13. That means that if the board does not fill it by June 12, there will have to be a special election. Our only scheduled meeting before that date is on May 24.

Second, even if the board intends to appoint someone, there will be a special election if voters petition for one. The petition would have to be signed by eligible voters totaling thirty percent of the votes cast in the last school election—which, in this case, means 2,190 signatures. (As I understand it, “eligible” voters means anyone who is eligible to register to vote, even if they are not actually registered.) The petition would have to be filed with the board secretary within two weeks after the board notified the public of its intention to fill the vacancy with an appointment. The board published that notice on May 19, so any petition to trigger an election would have to be filed by June 2.

Any special election to fill the seat would have to be held between sixty and seventy days after the vacancy occurred—which means Election Day would be either July 12 or July 19.

An election would fill the seat for the remainder of the term, which expires in September 2019. An appointment would fill it until the next school election, which is in September 2017 (unless the district schedules any bond vote sooner). [This is a correction from the initial version of this post; see the comment, below.]

Again, this post reflects my understanding of how the process works, based on my reading of the statutes. Please do not take it as the official word of the district, the school board, or the Auditor’s Office.

The board plans to discuss how to fill the vacancy at its meeting tonight (May 24). My initial inclination, especially given that the election would fill the seat for over three years, is that an election makes more sense than an appointment, for the reasons I wrote about here in 2014.


Anonymous said...

"Regardless of whether the vacancy is filled by appointment or election, the new board member will serve out the duration of Tom Yates’s term—that is, until September 2019. The seat will not be on the ballot in the 2017 board election"

The above statement seems to be directly contrary to the information provided by the district and the Johnson County; that being that an appointment would only be until the next regularly scheduled Board election in 2015.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering the same thing - both the Press Citizen and Gazette reported an appointee would have to seek election at the next school district election so 2017 or the next special election. Gazette has a quote from the assistant JC auditor confirming.,

Chris said...

Anonymous -- Thanks for the heads-up. I was looking at Section 279.6(1)(c), which says that a "A person appointed to fill a vacancy in an appointive office shall hold such office for the residue of the unexpired term and until a successor is appointed and qualified." But looking at it again now, I can see that that section applies only to "appointive office," not to elected office. So Section 69.12 would govern, which says that the position shall be filled at the "next pending election" -- which would mean at the next school board election or even sooner if there were, for example, a school bond vote.

I'll correct the post.