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Long Beach school board member resigns

Michael Shane Ellis resigns his post after failing to attend meetings in three months. He is also wanted on a hit-and-run warrant.

August 07, 2009|Seema Mehta

A Long Beach school board member who is being sought by authorities and has not attended a board meeting in three months has resigned, district officials said Thursday.

Michael Shane Ellis' letter of resignation was hand-delivered to a shuttered district headquarters sometime between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.

"It's been an enormous distraction in a very difficult time," said board member Dave Barton. The resignation "is long overdue. I don't know what personal demons he has, but I hope he gets whatever help he needs to move on with his life."

Ellis' resignation is effective Sept. 1. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful Thursday.

The 41-year-old was elected to the five-member school board in 2006 with the backing of the powerful Teachers Assn. of Long Beach and has faced controversy practically ever since.

"This is a bit of an understatement, but we're pretty disappointed with his tenure as our endorsed candidate," said Mike Day, the union's president, who said the group backed Ellis because he was knowledgeable about education issues and had experience as a union leader in Lawndale.

Ellis has had several run-ins with the law since his election, including being convicted in December 2006 of hit-and-run and driving without a license, and an August 2007 drunk-driving conviction in Orange County, records show. He was also evicted from his Alamitos Beach apartment in 2008, according to court records.

He was censured and asked to resign by his fellow board members in 2007, and faced an unsuccessful recall attempt in 2008 by the Chamber of Commerce, which spent $50,000 to remove him.

"It's about time that Mr. Ellis finally admitted to himself that he's not a good school board member and he's not doing what the residents elected him to do," said Randy Gordon, president and chief executive of the chamber.

Ellis had been attending board meetings and district functions sporadically until May 5. He was in contact with district officials once since then, to say he would attend a meeting, but he never showed up. Long Beach Unified discovered that he no longer lived at the downtown address he had provided, said district spokesman Chris Eftychiou.

The District Weekly, a Long Beach alternative newspaper, reported last week that Ellis' probation from the hit-and-run accident had been revoked in August and a judge had issued a $15,000 bench warrant for his arrest.

Board members had been considering whether to force Ellis from his seat under a provision of the city charter that allows such a move if an elected official fails to perform his duties for 90 days. The district's legal counsel is parsing the city charter, which says board vacancies can be filled by special election or appointment.

Ellis remains employed as a humanities teacher at the private Bridges Academy in Studio City.

"He's in very good standing. We just want to stay out of it," said a man who answered the phone at the school and declined to give his name.

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seema.mehta@latimes.com

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