Saugus Union School District board members are hoping a lawsuit working its way through court will help them legally oust board member Stephen Winkler, however he might have abandoned his school board seat already, according to the board’s bylaws.
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SUSD officials filed a quo warranto lawsuit seeking to remove board member Winkler from office Feb. 25; last week, he indicated plans to fight the suit.
SUSD board members voted 4-1 on June 18 to vacate Winkler’s seat, after district officials claimed a private investigator they hired gave proof Winkler violated the law by maintaining a residence outside SUSD boundaries.
Saugus Union School District officials requested permission from the Los Angeles County Office of Education to hold a special election in July, before the 90-day period had expired.
At that time, LACOE officials told SUSD board members they’d have to request permission to hold quo warranto proceedings if they wanted to legally remove Winkler from office.
Saugus Union School District officials said they have not heard from Winkler since, in any official capacity, outside of when he was served with his lawsuit.
In several interviews with Winkler, he’s acknowledged his absence, expressing a belief his presence at board meetings would serve as a distraction doing more harm than good.
Members of the Saugus Union School District governing board refused to comment on any specifics regarding the case, saying the lawsuit is a pending legal matter.
Saugus Union board members have maintained throughout the whole incident they’ve been guided by their legal counsel on all matters pertaining to Winkler’s vacancy.
“We feel that we’re moving forward within the lines of the law that we have within our legal responsibilities to the district,” said board President Paul De La Cerda in a previous interview.
However, a vacancy on the board was created Sept. 18, three months after the June vote, according to Saugus Union School District bylaws.
This is spelled out on page 38 of Board Bylaws BB 9223(b)7:
A vacancy is created when: “A Board member’s ceasing to discharge the duties of his/her office for the period of three consecutive months, except when prevented by illness or when absent from the state with the permission required by law.”
No such permissions have been requested or given, officials said.
The board’s bylaws also provide a remedy for a vacancy created by an abandonment:
“When a vacancy occurs from six months to 130 days before a regularly scheduled Board election at which the position is not scheduled to be filled, a special election to fill the position shall be consolidated with the regular election,” according to BB 9223(c)3. “The person so elected shall take office at the first regularly scheduled Board meeting following the certification of the election and shall serve only until the end of the term of the position which he/she was elected to fill.”
Winkler’s four-year term is slated to end in December 2015.
Saugus Union officials waited until October to request permission for quo warranto proceedings from the Attorney General’s Office, which was granted Feb. 12.
The Attorney General’s Office signing off on the quo warranto proceedings meant SUSD officials could file suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, which they did Feb. 25.
Winkler has 30 days to respond to the suit, before the plaintiff, i.e. the Saugus Union School District can file a “request for default.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News