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His Incomplete Sentence Jolts School District

A school board winner in Riverside County won't be freed from prison until February. Officials are reviewing the legality of his run.

November 11, 2005|Lance Pugmire and Ashley Powers | Times Staff Writers

Randy L. Hale won't be able to join the Romoland School District board until February -- when he'll be released from prison.

Hale, 40, who won one of three school board seats in Tuesday's election, has been behind bars in Chino since Sept. 21 for parole violations. The construction worker's rap sheet includes burglary, spousal abuse and methamphetamine possession.

Still, he captured one-fifth of about 4,100 votes cast in the school board race, finishing third in a five-candidate field.

"The new board won't start until January, so they won't have to wait too long for him," said Hale's mother-in-law, Norma Elliott, of Homeland in western Riverside County. "He wants to help kids. He has four himself, and my daughter has three. He loves kids, and he's got big plans."

When Hale registered to vote in August, he signed a card that promised he was not a felon. State law says a felon can register to vote if not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

"It's a statewide honor system, basically," said Registrar Barbara Dunmore.

Now officials at the Romoland School District -- a rapidly growing K-8 district with about 2,200 students -- are mulling what to do about their incarcerated board member.

School district officials are investigating whether Hale's registration and run for office were legal when he filed papers in August. If he was not a legal voter, county and school district officials say his seat will be vacated. School district officials expect a decision next week.

"It's not an embarrassment. It's just odd," said Supt. Roland Skumawitz.

Hale won't be released from the California Institution for Men in Chino until Feb. 15.

Board members, who serve four-year terms, are scheduled to be sworn in Dec. 13. The district has procedures for filling board vacancies, but those usually occur because a board member moves out of the district or dies.

"We have to honor the democratic system," Skumawitz said, "even though occasionally strange things happen."

Hale was active in his small community, calling bingo games and helping guard Romoland, Homeland and Green Acres with the Harvest Valley Citizen Patrol, his family said.

But during the campaign he was a ghost candidate, with no yard signs or fliers. He was a no-show at candidate forums and workshops. And he suddenly went missing from the local Lions Club meetings, which he had attended while trying to start his own chapter.

"We tried to call him, but his phone was cut off," said member Dan Watson.

The mystery of why Hale vanished was solved Wednesday, after his 831 votes -- 233 more than the next competitor -- grabbed him a board seat. His challengers ascribed it to Hale's name being first on the ballot.

"I don't know whether people don't care or they just don't think," said last-place finisher Chuck Soria.

In September, police stopped Hale for riding a bicycle in the dark with no light, which led to his incarceration, said his wife, Penny.

Parole agents found that Hale failed to meet with his parole officer, filed false information with a police officer, failed to register as a drug offender and left his parole area without permission, said Lt. Tim Shirlock, a spokesman for the Chino state prison.

Hale was imprisoned from June 1985 to July 1987 for burglary and robbery under the name Randy Logan Parsonage, said a state Department of Corrections spokesman. As Randy Hale, he was jailed from February 1998 to March 2000 after convictions for drug possession and abusing his then-wife, Dawn Hale. He returned twice for parole violations.

"I know this is something different for them to deal with, but he would love to have his seat the voters gave him," said Penny Hale. "I don't see why they can't just let him out now so he can assume it. He's a great guy, with good character. He's done a lot for the community, and he wants to do more."

Times researcher Lois Hooker contributed to this report.

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