Westminster-area voters will have a special school board election on April 8, Al Olson, Orange County registrar of voters said Tuesday.
Olson said that enough signatures were verified on petitions challenging a Westminster (Elementary) School District board appointee to mandate the special election.
At issue is the school board's appointment of Curtis Jones on Nov. 6 to complete a two-year term. The vacancy was caused by the resignation of board member Skip Morgan, effective Oct. 31.
The incumbent school board in September announced that it would appoint to the vacancy whoever came in fourth in the Nov. 5 regular election for three school board positions. Jones was already on the school board and was seeking reelection in the Nov. 5 election, but he lost. He placed fourth in a field of nine candidates.
Randy Fruechting, vice president of the school board, said that the resignation of Morgan came too late for the vacancy to be on the Nov. 5 ballot. "We didn't want the district to have the expense of a special election, so back in September, when Skip (Morgan) announced he was having to leave, we said we'd fill the position by appointing the person who came in fourth," Fruechting added.
Critics of the Nov. 6 appointment of Jones formed a group called Citizens to Protect the Right to Vote and circulated petitions for a special election. Nancy Blumenthal, chairwoman of the group, said the appointment of Jones after he had lost at the polls was "a slap in the face to the voters of Westminster."
State law provides that a school board appointment becomes void if 1 1/2% of the number of registered voters in the last election petition for a special election. Early in December, Citizens to Protect the Right to Vote turned in more than 1,000 voter signatures on petitions. Only 484 valid voter signatures were needed, and Olson said Tuesday that the petitions were verified with "comfortably more" than enough for the special election.
"The effect of a petition like this is to make an appointment void," Olson pointed out. The special election allows candidates to file to be on the April 8 ballot. "So far, only one candidate, Nancy Blumenthal, has filed," Olson said, adding that the filing period opened Dec. 17 and extends through Jan. 10.
Jones, in a telephone interview Tuesday, said: "Oh, yes. I plan to file as a candidate." He criticized the cost to the school district of the special election, saying the expense will be about $30,000.
Fruechting, in an earlier statement, had charged that Blumenthal and Citizens to Protect the Right to Vote were a front for the teachers' union, the Westminster Teachers Assn.
"The association won two seats in the Nov. 5 election, and they want this third seat for control of the (five-member) board," Fruechting said.
Pending the election, the Westminster School Board will function with four members.