The Education Action Network

Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools

by Diane Douglas – Governing Board Member, Peoria Unified School District

When Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Donald Covey wrote to the Peoria Governing Board “Although there is no specific statutory authority for the county superintendent to cancel a special election after one is called (pursuant to A.R.S. 15-302) . . .,” he is absolutely correct. When he continues “. . . case law implies that such an election may be cancelled if there no longer is a purpose for the election.” thereby allowing him to cancel the election to fill the empty board seat he couldn’t be more wrong.

He cites Green v. Osborne and Arizona Attorney General Opinions I82-057 and I84-174 in a flawed attempt to defend the indefensible – cancellation of a valid election by an official who holds no legal authority to do so. The mere existence of some precedent does not make it compelling, relevant or give him authority under our circumstance.

In Green v. Osborne then Governor Mecham was removed from office by the Legislature and the office was filled through the constitutionally mandated succession process prior to the cancellation of the election. The AZ Supreme Court ordered the Secretary of State – the statutory election officer - to cancel the election. The court did not grant that authority carte blanche to that office nor confer that authority to any ancillary official.

In both AG opinions legislation was enacted prior to the cancellation rendered the issue of those elections moot. Likewise in I82-057, as in Green v. Osborne, the AG advised the Secretary of State – the election official – to take the requisite action.

Opinion I84-174 reads “. . . the doctrine of “mootness” applies in situations involving questions or issues which are no longer in existence because of changes in the factual circumstances.” The PUSD board vacancy had to be filled prior to the cancellation of the election for the question to be rendered moot under this definition. The “fact” that Dr. Covey was able to manipulate a majority of the board into capitulating to his demands has not eliminated the issue. The board seat was vacant when Dr. Covey called then subsequently sought to cancel this election and currently remains vacant.

Additionally the authority to cancel an election has never been conveyed to a County Superintendent of Schools not in statute, not in Green v. Osborne nor by AG opinion. Under A.R.S. 15-424 only the County Board of Supervisors can cancel a school board election under specific circumstances as defined in that statute.

Dr. Covey has not only greatly exceeded the scope of his statutory authority but is also setting a very dangerous precedent by attempting to cancel a legally called election whose issue remains unresolved. We now know that a majority of the PUSD Board is willing to put a price tag on our right to vote for representation. But where is Helen Purcell; Bill Montgomery; Tom Horne; or our County Board of Supervisors? If they are all unwilling to protect our sacred right to vote from this unlawful attempt to cancel an election then who will?


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