The Sweetwater Union High School District school board voted at its last meeting to not replace the seat vacated by former trustee Jim Cartmill.
The open seat was created when Cartmill was convicted June 5 of accepting gifts that exceed the state limits.
According to government code 1770.2 and the board’s bylaws, Cartmill was immediately suspended from serving the district when he entered his April guilty plea.
Government Code 1770.2 states that if a board member is convicted of a crime related to his or her role as a board member then that board member must resign, whether the crime was a felony or a misdemeanor.
Citing the government code, temporary trustee Mark Anderson said Cartmill had to resign when he was sentenced for his role in the South County Schools pay-for-play scandal.
The current school board —which is occupied by four temporary trustees from the San Diego Office of Education — had the option to fill Cartmill’s seat by making an appointment any time prior to Aug. 4, according to California Education Code 5093 (a).
The code states “there shall be no special election or appointment to fill a vacancy on a governing board if the vacancy occurs within four months of the end of the term of that position.”
Anderson said an appointment wasn’t needed because a San Diego County Office of Education trustee already occupies Cartmill’s seat.
“The Sweetwater district had to actually go to court to get a judge to tell the county to fill those (vacated) seats,” he said. “So the seat was already filled. It’s kind of like there was no action taken because there was no action needed.”
Cartmill and with former board member Bertha Lopez are fighting their removal from the school board at a July 18 hearing.
Anderson acknowledges that there is a chance Cartmill may return to the dais
“There is a possibility not a probability,” he said. “Is it possible? Yes. The judge could say that any one of them could come back. I kind of doubt it. And I kind of doubt at this point the community would welcome them back with open arms because they’re so much more interested in going forward than going backward.”
Music Watson, chief communications officer with SDCOE, said the option to replace Lopez’s seat was not available because a different timeline applies to 2016 terms under Education Code 5903 (b).
Board President John McCann said it is best for the voters of the South Bay to decide who they want to represent them.
“(Cartmill’s seat) is up in November and it’s better to have the people of the district elect the new school board member,” he said.
Cartmill said because of a pending court date he could not comment for this story.