The Sweetwater Union High School board of trustees delayed a decision Tuesday regarding the process to fill the seat of former board member Arlie Ricasa.
Ricasa resigned Dec. 19 as part of a misdemeanor plea deal for her involvement in a pay-for-play scheme.
Sweetwater District Attorney Dan Shinoff recommended the board fill the vacated seat through a provisional appointment, noting a special election would cost the district up to $1.5 million for what he said is essentially a nine-month appointment.
“Obviously (a special election is) a significant impact on the district in the event you were going to go that route,” Shinoff said.
Shinoff said according to the board’s bylaws, an appointment must take place within 60 days of the vacancy, which in this case is Feb. 17.
Should 60 days pass without an appointment then a special election must occur, Shinoff said.
In his proposal, Shinoff also suggested forming an ad hoc committee that would include members of the public and the mayors of Chula Vista, National City and Imperial Beach to help review candidates and to participate in discussions about the candidates.
National City Mayor Ron Morrison said he would be in favor of sitting on the committee to help with a transparent appointment process.
“This normally would be a school board issue, in this case with so much turmoil and the situation that they have there, if they are looking for an outside opinion I think it is a good idea,” he said.
Morrison said forming an ad hoc committee and including mayors of the cities where the school district has schools located is not a bad idea only if they are appointing someone for less than a year.
Sweetwater High School, the oldest school in the district, is in the city that Morrison governs.
A decision on how to fill the vacant seat needs the support of at least three board members. With trustee John McCann wanting a special election, board member Lopez undecided and board president Jim Cartmill in support of
Shinoff’s proposal, the issue was delayed.
McCann said a special election would bring transparency to the process.
“This is a unique situation and I think for the district to increase the transparency, make sure that we fully gain trust, I would like to move forward with the special election,” he said. “I know the cost is an issue but I think if we move forward with a vote by mail I think that would reduce the cost.”
Community member Kathleen Cheers said she doesn’t want to waste her tax dollars funding a special election.
“Mr. McCann may be willing to pay for this, I as a taxpayer am not,” she said during public comment.
Board member Pearl Quinones was absent during the meeting because she was attending to her ailing mother in Texas, Cartmill said.
Cartmill said he anticipates Quinones to be out for about two to four weeks,
Board members agreed that Quinones’ vote on whether to appoint or call for a special election is necessary.
The board will try to contact Quinones this week and schedule another public meeting with Quinones voting either on telephone, via Skype or by some other means.