Efforts to recall members of the school board appear to have been derailed due to a lack of signatures on their initial paperwork.

A group of voters filed Notices of Intention to Circulate Recall Petitions targeting Jon Kean, Laurie Lieberman, Maria Leon Vazquez and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein last week. That paperwork includes the reasons for the recall and signatures from registered voters.

Petitioners submitted 20 signatures per petition but County officials have determined valid petitions must have 30 or 100 signatures depending on the individual being recalled.

Attorney Joseph Pertel raised the question with county officials in letters sent on behalf of Lieberman, Vazquez, Kean and Tahvildaran-Jesswein.

In its response, the Registrar’s office said it had sent proponents a recall guide document (available online at https://lavote.net/publications) and that according to election code the minimum number of signatures required is 10 or equal to the number of signatures required to have been filed on the nomination paper of the officer sought to be recalled, whichever is higher. That threshold for Lieberman and Tahvildaran-Jesswein is 100 as that was the number required for nomination when they were elected in 2018. However, the nomination requirements were reduced in the 2020 race due to pandemic and only 30 signatures are required to recall Kean or Vazquez.

While elections are administered by the Santa Monica City Clerk, recalls are run through the county.

“Generally, the RR/CC acts as the ‘elections official’ in the case of the recall of elective officers of a school district. (Elc. Code 11020(a).) This situation is somewhat unique in that the City Clerk is the elections official for the general municipal election of the members of the SMMUSD BOE per the City’s Charter (City Charter, art. IX-Board of Education), but is not acting in that role for the recall of the same officers,” said the letter.

The Recall campaign said they had followed instructions from the county and had yet to receive any notification from the county but if their petitions were in error, they would gather the additional signatures and resubmit.

“It doesn’t come as a surprise that the people behind the recall failed to follow the law with respect to signature requirements,” said Laurie Lieberman. “After all, these same people filed recall statements with the County last week that contain malicious lies and demonstrable falsehoods. The people behind the recall are not interested in the law or the truth or in making our schools better. They are only interested in power and are willing to be reckless and destructive of our institutions and our public servants in its pursuit.”

Kean said he was unsurprised by the situation.

“SMMUSD and it’s board members are extremely busy preparing our schools for a return to in person instruction, coordinating efforts to have an inequitable Malibu unification petition rejected, and creating strategies to address learning loss,” he said. “Once the recall petitioners follow the proper procedures we will add debunking their lies and outing the true forces behind the recall effort to our list of issues to tackle.”

In response to past comments made about the campaign, the proponents posted a response on their Facebook page.

“True to form, and also consistent with the recall petition, the first response from the four failed School Board Members to being recalled was not about substance,” said the post. “Instead, the failed four attacked parents for asserting their legal rights. Their go-to tactic is to isolate community members as villains instead of defending their own position. The failed four are attempting to characterize the proponents as stupid, unaware, and controlled by some powerful force of naysayers. They are unable to come to terms with the fact that more and more of the community simply does not approve of the job they are doing and we can’t afford to wait until the next election to do something about it.”

editor@smdp.com