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Friday, Apr. 18, 2014

Eastern School Board faces tough decision in how to replace 'Jim the Janitor'

Posted Friday, November 14, 2008, at 11:02 AM

The recent U.S. presidential race had 'Joe The Plumber'.

The race for four at-large seats on the Eastern Greene Board of School Trustees featured 'Jim The Janitor' as one of the candidates.

Jim 'The Janitor' Yoho, a plain-spoken grandfatherly guy who tells it like it is, did very well in the Nov. 4 General Election balloting.

Yoho led the ticket in his first attempt at public office and earned a seat on the school board.

Voters -- by a majority -- felt Jim the Janitor was the best man for the job.

Nine candidates were vying for the four seats.

Yoho tallied 1,245 votes followed by Rob Hudson with 1,234, Shelly Patterson with 1,201 and Troy Fields 1,117.

Jeremy Inman followed with 1,031, incumbent board president Patrick Arthur tallied 896, Donald Johnson had 829, Brad Crites 721 and Sherman Schuck 207.

But Jim The Janitor had a problem before the race ever started.

Jim The Janitor has worked for the school district as a second shift maintenance worker, along with his wife, Joy, for the last eight years.

State law and bylaws drafted by the Eastern School Board when it became an elected body in 2001 clearly state a school employee or a non-certified employee can not serve on the school board.

It's a conflict of interest.

Jim's candidacy for that reason was questioned by local election officials at the time he filed his intentions to run for the seat. He was advised to check into it.

Jim The Janitor checked into it and talked to several people -- both in Indianapolis and some locally -- and got some 'mixed' signals in the form of conflicting opinions on whether it was legal for him to toss his hat into the political ring in this race.

He decided to keep his name on the ballot.

When he was elected, Jim the Janitor received word from the school district's attorney that if he wanted to take the seat on the school board, he was going to have to give up his approximate $26,000 a year janitor's job. The school board position pays $2,000 annually.

Jim the Janitor did the right thing for his family -- and decided to resign from the school board seat.

Now the school board is charged with finding a replacement.

The simple thing to do would be to look at the vote totals and whichever candidate had the fifth best vote total -- move them up into the fourth slot and onto the board.

However, the simple thing is not always the right thing to do.

The board can look at the case of the election contest between former Terre Haute Mayor Kevin Burke and current Mayor Duke Bennett for some guidance because I think it has some relevance.

On Thursday, two of the three judges for the Indiana Court of Appeals decided the case, saying neither man is currently eligible to serve as mayor.

Judges Carr L. Darden and Elaine B. Brown, who wrote the 45-page majority opinion, concluded that Bennett was subject to the Little Hatch Act, making him ineligible as a candidate during his 2007 campaign, and concluded that Burke could not win an election in which voters were not fully informed of Bennett's ineligibility.

The majority found that neither candidate brought issues of Bennett's eligibility to voters' attention prior to the election.

Because voters were unaware of Bennett's ineligibility, the court determined that all votes in the 2007 mayoral election would have to be nullified equally, meaning that Burke could not have won, even if Bennett were disqualified.

After determining Bennett's ineligibility, the court turned to Burke's assertion that he should be elected as "the qualified candidate who received the highest number of votes," based on Indiana state law.

The court disagreed, reasoning that if all the voters who cast ballots for an ineligible Duke Bennett -- without knowing he was ineligible -- lost their votes, then all the other voters who cast ballots in good faith would also have to lose their votes. The entire mayoral election, then, would have to be nullified.

I think there is some relevance here that parallels this Eastern School Board situation.

Should the person who got the fifth most votes be elevated into the fourth slot and be seated on the board?

Look to the words from the Indiana Court of Appeals and insert Jim the Janitor's name instead of Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett.

The voters in the Eastern Greene School Board election cast 1,245 votes in good faith for Jim the Janitor not knowing he was ineligible.

Would it be right to just throw out all 1,245 votes for Jim the Janitor and simply move up all of the other candidates to seat a replacement?

Should the new school board -- that would number six individuals after Jan. 1 -- be able to simply pick a successor to Jim The Janitor?

Would a special election not be the better and the fairest solution?

Nick is the assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or 1-800-947-4487 or by e-mail at schneider.nick@gmail.com or nschneider@gcdailyworld.com

Showing comments in chronological order
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My first gut reaction is the next person in line should be moved up. BUT you've made (or rather the courts made) some valid points.

Who would the 1245 votes that went to Jim have went too if they hadn't been cast for Jim. They may have actually went to the 7th or 8th place person which would have put them ahead of 5th place. We'll never know without another election which would be expensive.

But I don't think it's right for the school board to just pick the person either without the communities say in the matter.

-- Posted by Rambler 85 on Fri, Nov 14, 2008, at 11:11 AM

All very good points. Again it suggests as voters we need to be diligent in learning about our candidates and not be shy about asking questions related to conflict of interest. In the case of Jim the Janitor it seems a very obvious conflict of interest, however I don't recall any mention of his work at the school in any of the media coverage. I may have missed it.

-- Posted by lookingahead on Fri, Nov 14, 2008, at 12:15 PM

In reference to the media not covering his employment at the school (This comes from the article "Nine candidates seeking four seats on Eastern School Board" Friday, October 31, 2008

By Anna Rochelle, Staff Writer):

Yoho knows a lot about the Eastern Greene community and the school -- both he and his wife, Joy, are employed at the school. He works in the Maintenance Department at the Elementary and Middle School building. It's his second career -- he also retired from RCA Thompson in Bloomington.

The Yohos live in Center Township and have two grandchildren who are in school now and three children who are graduates including J. B. Neill, a former Eastern Greene coach.

Yoho said he'd thought about running for a long time before finally making the decision. He said there are some things he would like to accomplish or change that he would like to mention.

Yoho would like for all students and families to be treated the same, no matter what their economic status or anything else.

"I'd like to see everyone treated equally," said Yoho.

Eastern Greene's special needs and handicapped students are another one of Yoho's priorities. He says he feels these programs need more attention so that these students have better opportunities in their education. And he feels the teacher for speech and hearing-impaired needs better facilities.

Yoho also says if elected, he is in favor of hiring more local people if they have the qualifications. Whenever possible, Yoho says the school board should try to hire candidates who live in the Eastern district and candidates who are Eastern graduates.

Yoho says if elected he would be practical, use common-sense and try to do what's right.

"I'm just a plain-spoken man, but I try to tell it like it is," said Yoho.

-- Posted by birdman on Sat, Nov 15, 2008, at 9:21 AM

The bigger question here is why before the election did no one from the newspaper ask the simple question of whether his candidacy was legal?

-- Posted by motorcycleman47441 on Sat, Nov 15, 2008, at 8:02 PM

The "school district's attorney" was right on top of the situation after the fact. Where was the

"school district's attorney" at the time Mr. Yoho was placed on the ballot? All of this could have been avoided with a simple explanation to Mr. Yoho and to the Eastern School community.

-- Posted by Globe&Anchor on Mon, Nov 17, 2008, at 8:15 PM

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