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Choice of County Schools Trustee Spurs Petition Talk

April 10, 1987|BILL BILLITER | Times Staff Writer

Sheila Meyers, a member of the Orange County Board of Education for six years before she resigned last year to move out of state, was chosen Thursday to fill a vacancy on the board in a 3-1 vote that prompted an immediate threat of a petition drive against the choice.

At stake is the seat on the five-member county Board of Education left open by the Feb. 13 death of board member Frances Murphy of Garden Grove.

Meyers is scheduled to be sworn in April 23 and to fill Murphy's seat until the regular primary election in June, 1988. A petition effort, however, could force an earlier election.

Meyers has moved back to California from Washington state, the board majority said, and is thus eligible to resume service on the board. But board member Francis Hoffman, who voted against the appointment, said he doubted that she is a permanent, legal resident of the north-coastal district she was appointed to represent.

Hoffman called the choice of Meyers an "insult" to the people of the 2nd District and said she has only a nominal residence in Huntington Beach, within the district she is to represent.

"There is already a movement started to get voter signatures to petition for an election to keep Mrs. Meyers off the board," Hoffman said Thursday afternoon, about four hours after the appointment vote. "I may join that petition drive myself. I haven't decided yet. But I think the appointment of Mrs. Meyers is a disgrace--an example of back-room politics."

Meyers could not be reached for comment. Other board members who voted for Meyers also could not be reached.

County Board of Education members are paid $400 a month and usually have little visibility or public recognition. The county board's main power results from its control of the county Department of Education's $50-million-a-year budget. That department provides education for juveniles in county custody and for several categories of handicapped students.

The department also has a range of other responsibilities, including issuing the payrolls for all 28 local school districts in Orange County.

Meyers, who formerly lived in Fountain Valley, served on the county Board of Education from 1980 until she left on Feb. 10, 1986. She was on the Fountain Valley School District board of trustees 14 years before being elected to the county board.

When she announced her retirement plans last year, Meyers said she wanted to return to her native state of Washington, where she said she planned to build a home near the town of Lakebay. "I'm going home," Meyers had said. "My mother is getting along in years, and I'm going home to be with her."

Lynn Hartline, assistant superintendent of the county Board of Education, said Thursday that she didn't know the circumstances that led to Meyers' return to Orange County. But she said the board had properly verified that Meyers lives in Huntington Beach, which is in the 2nd District.

Meyers' old seat was in the 1st District, which includes Fountain Valley. Judith Ackley of Santa Ana last year was elected to that seat.

Hartline said the board majority appointed Meyers "because of her past experience on the board, she could come up to speed very quickly and help with the problems and situations presently before the current board."

Hoffman, however, said he didn't think past experience should have given Meyers favored status over about 20 candidates who formally interviewed for the vacancy.

"Mrs. Meyers didn't even ask to be interviewed, and she didn't show up this morning when she was named to the appointment," Hoffman said. "I don't think she really represents that area, and I know a lot of other people also are disappointed."

Hoffman said friends and relatives of Murphy were among those starting a move to petition for an immediate election for the 2nd District seat. Hoffman noted that state law calls for an appointment to a school board vacancy to be nullified if a qualified percentage of voters petition for an election.

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