A petition was filed with the Barton County Attorney’s Office Thursday afternoon seeking the recall of all seven Unified School District 428 Board members. It asserts there was misconduct on the Board’s part in its response to the alleged sexual assault that occurred on a district bus as it returned from a boys swim meet in Manhattan Feb. 6.
“The USD 428 school board is not and has not taken the incident seriously and did not take proper action when it was needed,” the petition reads in part.
The petition was filed initially in the County Clerk’s Office by Great Bend attorney Brock McPherson on behalf of a three-member recall committee that includes Michelle Oneil, Mike Gowans and Diana Dawson, County Clerk Donna Zimmerman said. After her office accepted the document, she referred it on to County Attorney Doug Matthews.
Zimmerman said Matthews now has five business days to determine if the petition is valid. If this is the case, that approval starts an official clock giving the committee up to 90 days to gather the needed signatures, leading to a recall election.
However, she said this could be tricky.
According to state statutes, if one person is being recalled, petitioners must collect signatures from 40 percent of the voters who voted for that office in the last election. However, with multiple subjects who have been elected in more than one election cycle, the matter gets murky.
This will be a matter for Matthews, Zimmerman said.
Should all this work out and the signatures are submitted, it us up to the County Clerk’s Office to make sure there are sufficient valid names.
Below is the petition as it was presented:
“I the undersigned, hereby seek the recall of USD 428 Board of Education members including but not limited to Mrs. Joyce Carter, Mr. Charles Umphres, Dr. Larry Kutina, Mr. Kevin Mauler, Mrs. Lori Reneau, Mrs. Cheryl Rugan, and Mrs. Susan Young from the office of U.S.D. 428 Board of Education Great Bend, Barton County, Kansas on the grounds of misconduct related to the official duties of the U.S.D. 428 Board of Education and their individual abilities and fitness to carry out these official duties including but not limited to:
“That on Saturday February 5, 2016, two U.S.D. 428 swim coaches learned of sexual assault occurring on a 428 school bus in Ellsworth County. Upon discovery the bus stopped at Ellsworth Kansas and then continued on to Great Bend. No report of the attack on the minor child was reported to Ellsworth authorities nor to Great Bend authorities by the two U.S.D. 428 swim coaches nor the Bus Driver.
“KSA 38-2223 provides ‘when any of the following persons have reason to suspect that a child has been harmed as a result of physical, mental or emotional abuse or neglect or sexual abuse the person shall report the matter promptly as provided in subsection (b) and (c); (failure to perform duties prescribed by law).’
“That on Monday February 8, 2016 the victims mother and the victim visited with Tim Friess, High School Principal and David Meter, Activities Director USD 428 at the High School regarding the Saturday incident and activities on the U.S.D. 428 school bus. (failure to provide safe environment for children).
“That on Tuesday February 9, 2016 victims mother called the school asking for Mr. Friess but was unable to reach him. She was however able to reach Mr. Meter who advised her that “the matter had been investigated and the matter was closed!” (Incompetence).
“A call to the Superintendents office resulted in being advised by an assistant Superintendent that the Superintendent was out of town. A request to the Assistant Superintendent for the names and phone numbers for the members of the elected school board was denied. Subsequent phone calls to the board of education members resulted in ‘no comment’ (misconduct).
“The U.S.D. 428 school board is not and has not taken the incident seriously and did not take proper action when it was needed - The answer is Not “no comment” (misconduct).”
(The undersigned include recall committee member Oneil, Gowans and Dawson. Such a committee is required by state statute for the filing of a petition).