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Education

Municipality denies recall petition to oust 4 Anchorage School Board members

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: May 31, 2016
  • Published November 16, 2015

A city official has rejected as insufficient a petition seeking a recall election for more than half of the Anchorage School Board.

The application sought to recall Anchorage School Board President Kameron Perez-Verdia and board members Tam Agosti-Gisler, Pat Higgins and Kathleen Plunkett. As grounds for recall, the petition said the officials misled voters on school bond debt reimbursement and violated state regulations when they put up signs for bonds at local schools and more recently approved a public opinion survey on capital projects.

Michael Chambers, chair of the Alaska Libertarian Party, and David Nees, a former Anchorage middle school math teacher, were listed as sponsors on the recall application. Nees, who has run unsuccessful campaigns for the school board and the Alaska Legislature, said in an interview that school board members failed to acknowledge that the state Legislature might not reimburse the most recent school bond package, approved by voters this year.

"We thought it was disingenuous and not honest," Nees said. "I would have been happy if they said, 'You might be on the hook for all of it.'"

The Legislature passed a five-year moratorium on reimbursement that stretched back to Jan. 1, but the bill became law after the Anchorage election.

Nees said the petition did not seek to recall the three other school board members because it legally could not. Eric Croft and Bettye Davis will reach the end of their terms next year and Anchorage voters just elected Elisa Snelling in April.

A memorandum dated Friday from Assistant Municipal Attorney Dean Gates said that the April ballot did contain language referring to the increase in property taxes for residents if the state did not reimburse school bonds. It added that the school board can lawfully conduct surveys to gather public opinion data on capital improvement projects.

The memo from Gates said that without pictures of the signs, the city couldn't determine if they violated law that bans politicking by local governments, but they would be allowed if they were strictly informational.

If the Municipality of Anchorage had approved the application, Chambers and Nees would still have needed to collect more signatures to force a recall. Nees said he and Chambers would meet with their attorney this week to determine their response to the memo.

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