[KHTS] – Balancing the need for fiscal prudence with the need for the best representation often makes the appointment process a smarter choice, especially since an election is likely to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, a school official said Friday.
“Many have said that we’re skirting democracy because we’re not having an election,” said Joe Messina, board president of the William S. Hart Union High School District.
The Hart district recently put out a notice it was seeking candidates to fill the seat of Chris Fall, who said Wednesday he wouldn’t seek another term on the board.
“If we do a special election, we foot the whole costs, setting up the booths, the polling places, all of that comes down on us. We have no control over it, we just get billed for it,” he said, adding that the county gives no breakdown of costs ahead of time.
For the regularly scheduled 2007 Hart district board election, which costs less than a special election would because the costs are shared with dozens of other governing boards, resulted in a bill for $366,612.80 from the Los Angeles County Clerk’s Registrar Recorder’s Office.
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In 2009, the election cost the Hart district $290,803.62, and in 2011, the cost was $285,967.32.
“Costs vary from election to election depending on how many jurisdictions consolidate in that election,” said Elizabeth Knox, spokeswoman for the county clerk’s office.
Therefore a special election would be much pricier.
The largest cost is securing boards and polls, according to county invoices, which cost more than $92,000 in 2011. “Supply processing” is the second highest cost, and priced in at a little more than $50,000 the same year. “Election day costs” added another $40,000 to the bill. “Fixed costs,” such as printing and publication, came out to $43,341.
The William S. Hart Union High School District governing board has been faced with two vacancies in the last four months.
Paul Strickland resigned at the end of May to pursue a career opportunity in Florida, and he was replaced, via an appointment, by Chris Fall, who stepped down in mid-August to avoid a potential conflict of interest.
Hart board member Gloria Mercado-Fortine, who announced her intention to seek a spot on Santa Clarita’s City Council, could, if elected create a third vacancy.
Because the law is that (a vacant seat is) appointed for the remainder of the term,” Messina said, which would mean that the Hart district would be, if Mercado-Fortine wins, looking to fill a spot for a 16-month term.
The public entrusted the board members to make these decisions with their votes, Messina said.
The filing period of the regular election for three spots on the Hart district passed in August, and all three candidates, including Fall, would have run unopposed.
In such cases, the county clerk’s office certifies the nominations, and the three candidates assume the seats.
The move to make an appointment is not only the most cost-effective option, it’s also a much quicker way to seat a vetted candidate, said Saugus Union board President Judy Umeck.
Saugus Union School District officials were looking at the option of a special election versus an appointment recently for the seat of Stephen Winkler, who had his seat vacated by the board July 1. The vacancy is currently under review by the state’s Attorney General’s Office.
In that situation, a special election may have been the most prudent choice because there were members of the community requesting it, and the board must be responsive to that, Umeck said.
However, Umeck didn’t necessarily have a problem with appointments, she said.
Umeck was appointed to fill the term of Michael Kennick in 1996, and was then elected to the board three more times.
She is seeking her fourth full term in November.