Procedural error ends Youngdahl recall drive

SANDPOINT — Due to a procedural error, the recall against Lake Pend Oreille School Board Chairman Steve Youngdahl has been dropped.

Bonner County Clerk Ann Dutson-Sater contacted recall organizers and school district officials Thursday with news that the recall election can’t legally proceed. The announcement follows a decision by Secretary of State Chief Deputy Tim Hurst, who determined that under the provisions of Idaho Code 34-1706, recall petition signatures needed to be turned in all at once to be valid.

Although recall supporters could regroup to try again, they have decided to not do so.

“Unlike other petitions for which multiple signature pages may be submitted during the signature-gathering period, this law does not allow for additional signatures to be submitted once the clerk has verified them,” Dutson-Sater said in a letter to recall supporters.

The crux of the problem lies in the fact that petition signatures were verified by the county in two separate batches. According to Tom Bokowy, one of the recall organizers, they wanted to verify that their collected signatures were from valid, registered voters within the school district’s Zone 5. County employees didn’t initially see a problem with this approach, he said. As a result, the county verified 99 signatures on Dec. 20 — a handful short of the required amount — and another eight signatures on Dec. 24.

“According to the law, we were not able to accept the eight signatures on another day,” Dutson-Sater said in her letter.

Recall organizers have the option to recollect signatures before a May deadline, but there are no plans to do so, Bokowy added. Organizers are aware that the decision to launch a recall was a divisive measure much like the armed staff proposal, and they are satisfied to move into more collaborative territory. They aim to remain active in education issues and hope to move beyond their disagreements with local officials.    

The recall was initially launched following Youngdahl’s controversial proposal to arm school staff as a security measure. Bokowy and other supporters took issue with the data Youngdahl used to support his argument, which they felt was biased, flawed and misrepresented to the community.  

Bokowy said he and his associates are disappointed that the recall election will not move forward, but they’re also happy with what has been accomplished. The recall had galvanizing effect for many opponents of armed school staff, Bokowy said, and it helped demonstrate the level of community opposition to the proposal.

“I think we definitely helped frame up the argument,” he said.

Meanwhile, Youngdahl feels he was simply doing his job as trustee chairman by bringing his proposal up for public debate, making the recall unjustifiable. He’s happy to not have the issue distracting him as the school board continues its work.

“I would also like to thank my supporters who saw through the misinformation that has been spread about me during the recall effort,” he said. “Unfortunately, the biggest casualty in this process has been the truth.”

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