MERINO — A recall effort against Buffalo School District RE-4J Board of Education member Sonya Hutchison will move forward after Logan County Clerk and Recorder Pamela Bacon found the petition sufficient.
Earlier this month, a group of parents in one of Logan County’s most successful school districts launched a recall campaign against Hutchison for what they said was a failure to “follow proper protocol in the hiring of a superintendent,” the petition reads. “She put her own beliefs first and did not represent the people that voted her in.”
Those associated with the recall campaign refused comment to Complete Colorado.
Merino resident Melinda Hutt brought the petition, which was certified as sufficient by Bacon on July 15. A protest to the finding of sufficiency can also be filed with the clerk by 5 p.m. on July 29.
The school district, that sits 70 miles east of Greeley, is one of the state’s smallest, with slightly more than 300 students and two schools. The recall question will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Under Colorado law, for a school board member to be recalled, petitioners must gather 40 percent of the number of votes cast in the election for the seat represented by the person being recalled. If there was no election for that seat, the number of signatures needed is 10 percent of all registered voters in the school district.
The numbers vary greatly based on how the school district organizes its board. A recall attempt in Windsor Re-4 earlier this year, needed more than 3,100 signatures each as the board members up for recall were both appointed, having ran unopposed. That number would have been much lower had there been an election for the two women being recalled because Windsor organizes it boards by both districts and at-large, and the two women subject in Windsor represented districts.
By comparison, any one of the seven members of the Greeley-Evans School District 6 Board of Education would require between 22,000-27,000 signatures as all the positions are at-large and elect four members in one cycle and three in another, resulting in 60,000+ votes.
Although the Windsor recall failed to gather enough valid signatures, one member of the board subject to the recall resigned.
In the Merino case, organizers needed just 79 valid signatures from registered voters in the district, 104 were validated. Anyone who signed the petition has until 5 p.m. on July 29 to contact Bacon and ask that their signature be removed.
Likewise, Hutchison could resign and save the district the cost of the recall election.
According to the Sterling Journal Advocate newspaper, the recall is based on what some said was Hutchison going “rogue” during the interview process for the new superintendent.
One of the three finalists for the position, Jason Frasco, withdrew his application in the middle of the process.
“That candidate became part of a three-ring circus in that he had to leave the room so that he could get with legal counsel and that’s tough to swallow. That’s not how the school operates,” said Dan Sutter, a parent, volunteer coach and Merino graduate, whose wife served on one of the hiring committees, the Advocate reported.
The Advocate further reported that Sutter told the board that night that if a board member acted inappropriately, that member should resign, or the board should act to “silence” the member or start the process to remove them. However, a board member can only be removed from office via recall.
Some close to the situation who asked to remain anonymous said Hutchison’s extreme political views surrounding such things as Critical Race Theory, COVID vaccinations and masks, and other protocols are the impetus of the issues within the district.
In a opposition statement on the petition, Hutchison said “I believe Mrs. Hutt’s accusations to be baseless and as far as knowing my personal beliefs, Mrs. Hutt and I have never spoken to each other.”
According to the petition, the recall is expected to cost the school district just under $50,000. Should Hutchison survive the recall, the school district will also have to reimburse her election expenses.
Complete Colorado will continue to follow developments.
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