By Jerilea Hendrick
The recall petition at Flambeau School for school board members Danielle Zimmer and Sam Stewart continues to move forward. Challenges to the petitions were filed by Zimmer and Stewart on Dec. 17.
Petitioners Sara Baker and Ruth Opachan have attended Flambeau School board meetings since June and have spoken during each of the meetings about their concerns about the welfare of the students, staff and district.
Opachan and Baker have consistently spoke out about their concerns of threats, a lack of transparency, finger pointing and disrespect from some of the school board members. Both Opachan and Baker believe a recall election could bring about a positive change in the school to bring the focus back to students and the issues that directly affect them.
Baker believes “a new composition of board members would bring together people who can work together, provide a positive support and accountability system for the administrative team which would allow the district to again focus on what is most important, which is the students, their education and turning them into well rounded adults.”
Zimmer and Stewart’s reasons for challenging the recall petitions were they believe the reasons listed on the petitions were personal opinions unrelated to the official responsibilities of their officer positions. The challenges state the reasons provided assert a personal attack on each of their characters.
The challenges also state that the reasons included in the petitions fail to provide any basis for a recall related to Zimmer and Stewart’s official responsibilities as a board member.
The reasons, as stated in the challeges, are that the petitioners, “have lost confidence in the ability of Stewart and Zimmer to govern the school district effectively.”
Baker and Opachan’s other reasons for the recall state Zimmer and Stewart are not making the best decision in the interest of the students, staff and taxpayers” and “interfering with administration not allowing them to do their jobs effectively.” A fourth reason listed on Stewart’s challenges is that he “poses as a negative representative for the school district.”
Each of these reasons, according to the challenge, Zimmer and Stewart believe are opinion based and not related to their responsibilities as board members.
Baker and Opachan filed rebuttals to the Stewart and Zimmer’s recall petition challenges on Dec. 19. The rebuttals show Baker and Opachan believe the challenges to be insufficient and irrelevant. Stating that each of the reasons included in the recall petition were directly related to their positions on the school board, the petitioners believe any feeling of personal opinion are irrelevant.
There has been no Wisconsin court to rule a reason listed on a recall petition to be insufficient if the reason is associated with the duties of the officeholder. According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, grounds for recall petition insufficiency relate to the signatures of those signing the petition, examples include a signer signing another elector’s name, a signer being unaware of what he or she was signing, and signing more than once.
The rebuttal also states the challenges were insufficient because “the challenge must be made in the form of a written, sworn complaint and files with the filing officer who received the recall petition.” The challenges submitted by Stewart and Zimmer were not notarized.