MIDDLETON — A Middleton School District trustee recently resigned amid unrest in the district.
Erica St. Michell, zone 5 representative, resigned from her position on April 26, according to her resignation letter posted on the school district’s website. The vacancy does not become official until the next board meeting, according to a board statement.
Her resignation comes after allegations that she was not reelected to office properly in 2015 after filling a vacancy for a year in 2014.
Tim Winkle, board chairman, told the Idaho Press that St. Michell resigned because of the “harassment she was receiving from certain individuals in the community” regarding her election process.
St. Michell declined to comment.
Her resignation comes while community members battle the school district and board of trustees over an investigation into harassment claims made by the Middleton High School principal Benjamin Merrill. Contentious school board meetings have brought up other issues, such as St. Michell’s election process.
According to records from the Canyon County Clerk’s office, St. Michell submitted a declaration and petition of candidacy on Feb. 23, 2015. Because she ran unopposed, no school board election was held for her seat that year, as per Idaho code.
However, the board failed to properly swear in St. Michell when her new term started, according to a review of the school boarding meeting minutes from 2015. Her new term started in July 2015.
Quinn Perry, policy and government affairs director for the Idaho School Boards Association, said that the law states that a school board member must submit the oath of office after an election or appointment — even if the member had taken it before.
“Does that mean their service is illegitimate since they didn’t take the oath?” she said. “That, I cannot say.”
The school board’s legal counsel, Scott Marotz, offered his reading of the law to the board in a memo on April 16, stating that in his opinion “the oath of office is not a prerequisite to being a valid qualified voting member of the Board.”
Some questioned the lack of declaration of appointment of St. Michell by the board and lack of election certificate certified by the school district clerk to finalize her position on the board.
The Canyon County Clerk’s office has no election certificate on file for St. Michell. According to Joe Decker, county spokesman, the county elections office is not involved in school board elections outside of verifying signatures. The school district clerk would create and maintain an election certificate.
After a public records request for St. Michell’s election documents, the school district could provide only the Canyon County Election’s office declaration and petition of candidacy — not an election certificate.
Idaho code states that after a member is declared a trustee by the board, “the school district clerk shall immediately prepare and deliver to the person a certificate of election signed by him and bearing the seal of the district.”
However, Perry said that the school board association has not been training school board clerks to do so, because the school district does not oversee elections.
The issue, Perry said, could have just been miscommunication.
“In a small town, it is possible that this was just an oversight,” she said. “Since the board member already served and ran unopposed, it could have just been assumed that it was public knowledge that they were reelected.”