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County rejects recall petitions to remove Butte school trustees

County rejects recall petitions to remove Butte school trustees

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A Butte group’s effort to launch recall petitions against three school trustees has been rejected twice by the county.

Clerk and Recorder Sally Hollis said she’ll continue to reject the petitions from the Butte Citizens Coalition until it provides the required information.

Petitioners Ray Becky, Michelle Michelotti, Sherry Carlson and Lisa Andrews want Chairwoman Ann Boston and trustees Scott Ferguson and Patti Hepola recalled.

The law demands that a properly written petition contain specific information and allegations.

“They must state the facts of what they are being charged with,” added Hollis. “What did he do, when, why? They’re not going to do that.”

Among the charges the coalition cites but Hollis rejected are abuse of power, violation of oath of office, official misconduct, incompetence and failure to perform prescribed duties.

Also, if petitioners gather the required number of signatures for each petition, follow the filing laws and the recalls are placed on a voting ballot, then the Montana Recall Act is clear:

It states that the officers named in a recall petition have the right to have printed on the recall ballot a maximum 200-word statement giving reasons why they should not be recalled.

The law also requires that a newly re-elected trustee like Scott Ferguson must hold office for at least two months before a recall petition can be generated against him.

The second petition request cited 17 Butte school district policies that the group contends weren’t followed, and nearly a dozen state laws and federal laws that were broken as reasons for the recall. It was signed by Becky, Carlson, Michelotti and Andrews.

The petition doesn’t specify exactly the nature of the laws and policies it contends were not followed.

Eileen Joyce, Butte-Silver Bow County attorney, said the petitions did not follow the mandatory language required by law.

Yet, the coalition persists, as stated in emails to The Montana Standard:

“This process is going to more than likely be like pulling teeth with back and forth and back and forth. We will get it done. It is easier to do it the hard way. We are patiently progressing and learning every step of the way.”

As the coalition navigates its way through the public sphere, Hollis maintains that the process could drag on indefinitely since petitioners are allows to submit unlimited petitions.

“This is not going to go away,” Hollis said.

Hepola said after the first petition filed with Hollis’ office that she was unaware of the recall petitions. Boston and Ferguson did not return calls to The Montana Standard.

Hollis said that each correctly filed petition will require the signatures of 3,800 registered voters.

Becky was an unsuccessful candidate for school board in the recent election. He is Michelotti's father. Carlson and Michelotti previously filed complaints against the district, alleging discrimination in its hiring practices. Both tried to get hired as teachers.

Andrews, working as an administrative assistant at the time, filed complaints against the school district in 2010 claiming she was being retaliated against and harassed for reporting that the district was improperly destroying student records.

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Education Reporter who also covers features at The Montana Standard, I am a Cascade-Ulm-Great Falls native. Originally a sports writer, I wrote for the Missoulian and the Great Falls Tribune. I freelanced for The Seattle Times and other NW publications.

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