Voters recalled three members of the Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday in a special election that stemmed from the members' vote a year ago to retain high school football coach Cedrick W. Hardman.
School board president Charlene Ragatz and board members Janet S. Vickers and Carl E. Schwarz were all turned out of office, and Kathleen Jones, Harvey Triebwasser and Thomas R. Davis won separate elections to replace them.
Ragatz lost her board post by the biggest margin of the three--2,296 for recall and 1,345 against. Vickers lost by a margin of 2,180 to 1,419, while Schwarz lost his seat by fewer than 300 votes--1,907 to 1,684.
And while the last of the voters in Laguna Beach were casting their ballots, Ragatz, Schwarz and Vickers settled in for what turned out to be their last school board meeting.
The session was routine, in sharp contrast with the many heated meetings of the past year, beginning with the board's 4-1 vote last fall to retain Hardman, coach of the Laguna Beach High School football team, despite his arrest on felony drug charges.
That decision prompted a group of residents to start the recall effort against the board members who voted to retain Hardman--the former All-Pro defensive end with the San Francisco 49ers--without pay while he completed a drug-counseling program and worked to clear himself of the criminal charges, which included resisting arrest.
The residents' group, calling themselves Citizens Unified for Responsible Education, accused board members of being too lenient when they allowed an admitted drug user--it was Hardman's second arrest on drug charges--to continue working with students.
The group gathered enough signatures to force recall votes on three of the four targeted trustees. The fourth, Susan Mas, had said after voting to reinstate Hardman that she regretted her decision.
Seeking Ragatz's seat were Jones, 44, assistant vice chancellor for communications at UC Irvine, and James G. Kreder, 49, owner of a Laguna Beach planning firm.
Running for Schwarz's seat were Laguna Beach business owners Davis, 45, and Philip J. Kams, 54.
Triebwasser, 44, a pediatrician, and John E. Bachman, 44, a schoolteacher in Santa Ana, squared off for Vickers' seat.
Both opponents and proponents of the recall said the results of Tuesday's election should finally put to rest the Hardman issue, which has sharply divided many of the beach city's residents for the last year. Hardman announced in February that he would not seek reinstatement as head football coach this season, but that development did not slow the recall movement.
Hardman was arrested Sept. 20, 1986, after police pulled him over for driving erratically on Laguna Canyon Road. He struggled with the officers. After restraining him, officers found 5.5 grams of cocaine in his car.
Several weeks later, Hardman volunteered to enter a drug-rehabilitation program, and a judge suspended charges of felony possession of cocaine and misdemeanor resisting arrest. The issue then went before the school board, which was told by Hardman's physician that his patient was willing to reform.
The board then voted, 4 to 1, to allow Hardman to coach without pay for the remaining three weeks of the football season. The recall effort followed.
Successful candidates in the Schwarz and Vickers races would serve for the remainder of their terms, which expire in November, 1989. Ragatz or her successor would face reelection Nov. 3, because that term expires Nov. 27.
Aside from the Hardman decision, the challengers have accused the incumbents of mismanaging the district, saying that the three board members have damaged the daily functions of the district by interfering with the superintendent and other administrators.
But the three incumbents contended their record as school board members has been superior and stands on its own merits. They have said their challengers were dwelling on the Hardman issue, rather than focusing on educational and curricular issues.
Recall Election 25 of 25 precincts reporting
Charlene Ragatz: Shall she be recalled (removed) from the office of Member of the Governing Board of the Laguna Beach Unified School District?
Votes % Yes 2,296 63.0 No 1,345 36.9
Board Member: Succeeds Charlene Ragatz if she is recalled (removed) in this election. Term expires Nov. 27, 1987.
Votes % Kathleen Jones 2,141 76.4 James G. Kreder 554 19.7 Clayton J. Vernon 105 3.7
Janet S. Vickers: Shall she be recalled (removed) from the office of Member of the Governing Board of the Laguna Beach Unified School District?
Votes % Yes 2,180 60.5 No 1,419 39.4
Board Member: Succeeds Janet S. Vickers if she is recalled (removed) in this election. Term expires Nov. 24, 1989.
Votes % Harvey Triebwasser 1,656 61.9 John E. Bachman 1,017 38.0
Carl E. Schwarz: Shall he be recalled (removed) from the office of Member of the Governing Board of the Laguna Beach Unified School District?
Votes % Yes 1,907 53.1 No 1,684 46.8
Board Member: Succeeds Carl E. Schwarz if he is recalled (removed) in this election. Term expires Nov. 24, 1989.
Votes % Thomas R. Davis 2,054 85.1 Philip J. Kams 359 14.8