Ann Arbor school board members face recall election
Six Ann Arbor Board of Education members are defending themselves Thursday afternoon, after recall language was brought against them earlier this month.
The recall was put into motion by the Ann Arbor Public Schools Parents for Change, led by Jody Huhn, who had been pushing the district to look locally for the district’s superintendent.
The petition language for all six school board members named by Huhn cites the same four reasons for the recall: Failure to demonstrate thoughtful consideration of constituent priorities. Failure to demonstrate transparency in decision making. Failure to demonstrate cohesive and singular direction as evidenced by consistent split voting. Failure to provide sufficient backing and support for district superintendent position as evidenced by high turnover rate averaging 2.25 years per term.
Only one of the seven board members was not included in the recall petition: Deb Mexicotte, the school board president. Under a new state law, Act 417 of 2012, Mexicotte can’t be recalled, since it was her first year of a new term on the board.
The act also changes how the first recall hearing will be held. Before the 2012 law was passed, a local election commission just had to make sure a recall petition’s language was clear before moving forward with the hearing.
Now, the act mandates that the election commission -- in this case, the Washtenaw County Elections Commission -- determines not only the clarity of the language, but also its validity.
Questions of the constitutionality of this added factuality clause have been raised by local officials. Washtenaw County clerk Larry Kestenbaum believes that the new provision drives the commission away from the judicial rule they’re intended to play under Michigan’s constitution.
“The sufficiency of reasons for recall is a political question,” Kestenbaum told the Ann Arbor Chronicle. “It is specifically not a judicial question. If the election commission and the courts can determine the truth or falsity of reasons for recall, then the power to judge these questions has been removed from the people.”
Kestenbaum also references this provision in Michigan’s constitution:
Laws shall be enacted to provide for the recall of all elective officers except judges of courts of record upon petition of electors equal in number to 25 percent of the number of persons voting in the last preceding election for the office of governor in the electoral district of the officer sought to be recalled. The sufficiency of any statement of reasons or grounds procedurally required shall be a political rather than a judicial question. (emphasis added)
The recall hearing will be held at 1 p.m. today. Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta will have more on the outcome of the meeting.
- Melanie Kruvelis, Michigan Radio Newsroom