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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?
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