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Trustee's Foes Submit Signatures for Recall Vote

March 16, 1989|MEG SULLIVAN | Times Staff Writer

Organizers of a recall effort aimed at Oxnard School District trustee Jack Fowler said they had collected enough signatures by Tuesday's deadline to force an election.

The group, which includes parents and teachers, has given Ventura County election officials petitions bearing 8,400 to 9,000 signatures, at least 1,000 more than required to force a recall election, organizers said.

"If everything holds, we've got him," said Mark Prim, a junior high school teacher and an official in the Oxnard Educators Assn.

The teachers union, which represents the district's 486 teachers, spearheaded the recall after becoming deadlocked with the district in contract negotiations late last year.

Union members characterized Fowler, who has been on the board for 15 years, as a domineering and insensitive trustee who manipulates the board.

They hoped to advance their cause in December by revealing that Fowler, who oversees the district's finances, had filed for personal bankruptcy earlier in the year to relieve $126,000 in debts. They said it showed that he was financially irresponsible.

The recall effort got a big boost two weeks ago when Fowler supported an unpopular plan to dismantle court-ordered busing in the district and gradually return its students to neighborhood schools. The board voted 3 to 2 to end the busing. The recall campaign grew quickly thereafter, with 4,000 signatures gathered last weekend alone.

Fowler complained Wednesday that organizers capitalized unfairly on the vote.

"Rather than debate the integration issue on its merits, they made an emotional issue of it and whipped it into a hysterical thing," he said.

County election officials were working Wednesday to confirm that the petitions contained at least 7,322 signatures, the minimum required to force a recall election, said Ruth Schelper, assistant registrar of voters.

If that minimum is reached, election officials will begin the laborious task of checking to determine whether each signature belongs to a registered voter living within the Oxnard School District, a 15-school elementary-level district that includes most of Oxnard and some parts of Port Hueneme.

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