District 51 board is split on vacancy, faces deadline today
Twenty days after the Grand Junction City Council deadlocked 3-3 on a vote to appoint Duncan McArthur or Les Miller to fill Harry Butler’s seat on the council, school board members deadlocked Tuesday night on whom among six candidates to appoint to Butler’s vacant school board seat.
Although the City Council eventually took a second vote, picking McArthur by a 3-1 margin Monday, state statute offers the school board a different option. If a board reaches an impasse on filling a vacancy, the board’s president gets to pick the new member.
Statute requires that a board make an appointment within 60 days of a vacancy, which happened the day Butler died, June 2. That makes today the deadline for the board to come to a decision, according to District 51 attorney David Price.
Price said the board could meet today and try to reach a consensus. But after the deadline passes, the decision will be up to Board President Greg Mikolai.
Mikolai said Tuesday he will likely speak with candidates a second time to help inform his decision if he has to pick a winner. He told other board members he would prefer a board vote decide the appointment, “but if the philosophical differences are not going to allow us to come together and to decide on any particular candidate, then unfortunately that decision will fall to me.”
Those differences were clear as board members repeatedly voted 2-2 on candidates, with board members Ann Tisue and Jeff Leany on one side of the vote and Mikolai and Board Vice President Leslie Kiesler on the dissenting side.
Tisue and Leany motioned for the board to vote on two candidates: Pat Kanda and then Art Gardner. Leany said he backed Kanda because he was a school board member from 1993 to 1997.
“He already has boots on the ground and I know we have three months before an election” for the District C, D and E seats on the board. “We don’t need to bring him up to speed.”
Kiesler backed candidate John Williams, citing his experience with Explore D51, a yearlong class that teaches community members about the district, and recent experience on district boards and mill levy override and bond-supporting campaign groups. Kiesler said much about the board has changed since Kanda left 16 years ago and she thought Williams knew more about current board issues.
“Sitting in a classroom tutoring as opposed to being involved with the issues of the district is a far reach,” Kiesler said, referencing Kanda’s involvement in tutoring at Central High School.
Tisue responded by pointing out Kanda also sat on the District Accountability Committee as recently as 2005 and served as treasurer for Central’s Booster Club. She added she felt the board had a lot of “political pressure” to pick Williams because of several emails and letters sent to the board by his supporters.
Kiesler motioned for the board to vote on Williams, and Leany motioned for a vote on candidate Rick Langley, but neither got a second board member to back their motions, so votes on those two people never took place. Mikolai said he did not second any motions because he said it is inappropriate for a board president to do so.
The board did not vote on candidates Laura Luke or Mike Moran.