The drive for a recall election that would remove Laura Lang from the Moore County’s Board of Education ran aground during the Tuesday, July 21 regular meeting of the Moore County Board of Commissioners.
But we may not have heard their last word on the subject.
The Commissioners unanimously rejected a resolution that would have added Moore County’s name to a recall bill for the Stanly County Board of Education.
A few hours later, Chairman Nick Picerno pledged to put the resolution again before the Board during their August 4 meeting, and to support it at that time.
Picerno made that pledge on the Parents for Moore Facebook page, in response to protests from the group’s members.
The bill in question, House Bill 111, was filed by Representative Justin Burr of Albemarle, and currently pertains only to the recall of members of the Stanly County School Board.
It was approved by the House in a 71-43 vote in March, passed its first reading in the Senate on April 1, and has been shuffled between the Senate Rules Committee and the State and Local Government Committee since.
Commissioner Catherine Graham made the motion not to approve a resolution that would have asked to have the Moore County Board of Education added to the bill.
“To do this, our Board of Elections would have to verify every signature on the petition,” Graham said. “So it would be very time-consuming, and that in itself would probably result in some cost to our county taxpayers.”
HB111 would give any registered voter in the county the opportunity to collect signatures for the recall of any school board member. Those desiring a recall would have thirty days to collect enough petitions to equal fifteen percent of the number of voters registered at the time of the previous school board election. In Moore County, that would amount to more than 9,600 signatures.
The bill requires the Board of Elections to “investigate the sufficiency of any such petition” and to accomplish that in fifteen days.
“I also feel that we are talking about a period from March to December, when the election would occur normally,” Graham said.
The drive for a recall is aimed at one member of the Board, Laura Lang, the only remaining member who voted to fire Superintendent Dr. Bob Grimesey. Four other members of the Board who cast the same vote have resigned. Lang’s term expires in December 2016.
“I also believe that it does not promote good economic visibility,” Graham said. “We try to make Moore County a county that is attractive to people coming into the County . . . . We want them to think we have a good school system — and we do have a good school system. But to see recall elections signs scattered all over Moore County, I don’t believe would promote that.”
Commissioner Randy Saunders seconded Graham’s motion, indicating support for her arguments.
“We have seen major changes in the make up of our School Board,” Saunders said. “It would be an expense. I think it would be an overbearing load on our Board of Elections.”
“And, in my opinion, if there is going to be a recall of elected officials, it should affect all elected officials. Why are we singling out one board based on the events of one specific situation?” he asked.
Saunders said he felt that elected officials who violate the public’s trust should be subject to a recall “no matter what Board you’re elected to.”
“Unless you’re willing to support a bill that also includes my seat, I wouldn’t support it,” Saunders said. “Because I think we all should be subject to this, or none of us should be.”
No other Commissioner commented prior to the vote.
Later in the evening, as members of the Parents for Moore Group decried the vote online, Picerno, who is a member of that group, wrote: “If you guys feel this strongly, I will reintroduce it back on our next meeting, and I will support it. Best I can do.”
“Remember we had 29 issues to deal with tonight and unlike the last BOE [Board of Education], we discuss our motions in public, and Commissioner Graham had some good arguments. But, I will reintroduce and support it.”
Immediately after the July 21 Board meeting, Picerno told The Times “We’re done with it,” referring to the idea of a Board of Education recall.
“We have bigger fish to fry,” he said, and described the next steps the Board needs to take to convince state lawmakers to correct the formula used to determine how many teachers are funded in each school district.
That effort has the potential to win Moore County an additional $1.5 million in school funding.