A petition to recall Ketchikan School Board President Trevor Shaw was turned in Tuesday afternoon for review by the borough clerk. If it’s approved this week, local voters will decide in October whether to recall Shaw.
Sid Hartley is a paraprofessional at Ketchikan High School. She said she decided to initiate a recall effort after hearing numerous complaints about Trevor Shaw.
“You grow a connection with your colleagues and your students and you hear a lot of their voiced opinions and what they need,” she said. “They’ve been asking the board to give them what they need, basically. And they’ve been unheard.”
Those unmet needs, she said, include concerns over health insurance premiums, contentious teacher contract negotiations and an atmosphere that Hartley said discourages public participation at public meetings.
“So somebody comes to the podium and they try to talk to Shaw, and he usually tries to dismiss them early or – this is the observation; this is the perception – it seems that he wants to disregard it,” she said. “He doesn’t want to give the time to kind of hear it out.”
Hartley said she was simply upset for a while, but then decided it was time to take action. She researched the recall process and learned they had to narrow grounds for recall to 200 words or less. That’s not a lot, she said, because they had so many concerns. But they chose one action that they say violates Ketchikan School Board bylaws.
“Where Shaw chose to verbally and physically, as it said right here, dismiss a student representative’s request to be heard,” she said. “The board bylaws state that (student representatives) ‘have the right to be recognized at meetings, participate in questioning witnesses and discussing issues.’”
The recall petition application was accepted by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Clerk and petitions were issued on July 23rd. Hartley said a team of 10 cosponsors went out to collect at least 540 signatures, which is 25 percent of the number of voters who participated in the previous election.
Hartley said one cosponsor, Matt Hamilton, gathered 480 signatures by himself. And they ended up with more than 700 total. The next step is verification of those signatures.
Borough Clerk Kacie Paxton said she and the borough attorney reviewed the petition’s grounds for recall and deemed them sufficient. Paxton said the review does not look into whether the grounds for recall are true.
“What we do is review it and if it were true, does the statement meet the criteria for a recall petition. Not whether or not it’s true,” she said. “We don’t research to find out whether it’s true. That’s for the voters to decide.”
Paxton said it will take a little time to verify the signatures, but if her office is able to certify by Aug. 10th that enough valid signatures have been collected, she will put the recall on the agenda for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly’s Aug. 20th meeting.
“And the assembly would then be asked to place it on the regular election ballot for Oct. 2nd,” she said.
Paxton said if the petition is certified and placed in front of voters, Shaw will be able to provide a rebuttal on the ballot.
Shaw said that’s going to be challenging.
“It’s hard as you prepare a rebuttal statement to go on the ballot and everything, because the official grounds are one thing. I’ll be able to tell my side of the story on that, to provide a rebuttal to that. But there are so many unofficial things that people are saying: He did this, or this happened,” he said. “Honestly, all of the things I heard, if they were true I probably would have signed my own recall petition.”
Shaw said recall organizers chose one thing to list on the petition that they thought might stick, legally. He said Alaska’s recall rules stipulate that a recall election must be for cause – a specific violation – not because people don’t like someone.
Shaw said he believes the recall effort is politically motivated. He is running as the Republican candidate for Alaska House District 36.
“I can’t help but think that several of the signatures were gathered with people saying that this will help oppose his state House run,” he said. “I feel like there’s some dirty politics going on.”
Shaw said if the recall effort moves forward, he will consider a legal challenge. Partly because the grounds themselves listed on the petition don’t allege any violation of state law, and he said, they aren’t the real reason for the recall.
He also said the official grounds are not specific enough.
“If you read state statutes, it said official grounds will be detailed with particularity as to the incident that’s being alleged,” he said. “Over the last two years, there have been two different student members, three different board vacancy appointments and probably more than a dozen motions relating to all of those appointments, so I’m not even necessarily sure which incident I have to defend myself from.”
While the recall process moves forward, Shaw said he will continue to focus on doing his job as an elected representative on the Ketchikan School Board.