A judge is scheduled to hear arguments and possibly decide Friday, Sept. 28, whether a group's effort to recall a Mount Baker School Board member is valid and can go forward.
A group of citizens upset about the proposed transfer of state lands to Whatcom County for use as parklands filed paperwork to recall Russ Pfeiffer-Hoyt at the end of August. Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder is scheduled to hear those charges at 1:30 p.m.
The paperwork claims that Pfeiffer-Hoyt committed malfeasance when he voted in December 2011 -along with the four other members of the school board - to accept a $500,000 donation from the Whatcom Land Trust to set up a foundation to benefit students in the district. As a condition of the donation, the board agreed that the district would not pursue further legal action against the transfer of 8,844 acres in the Lake Whatcom watershed from the Department of Natural Resources to Whatcom County.
The school district receives some money from timber cutting on state lands, so transferring timber lands to the county would end revenue from that property.
Before the trust approached with the offer, district leaders already had decided that the district would be unlikely to recover future losses through legal action.
Recall organizer John LaMonte said he and others had wanted to recall all five board members for that vote, but they focused on Pfeiffer-Hoyt because he was the only board member whom they might be able to recall for a perceived conflict of interest. LaMonte claims that Pfeiffer-Hoyt was on the advisory board of the Whatcom Land Trust in 2003-04, and that he is currently a member of the trust.
Pfeiffer-Hoyt said he has never been on the trust's advisory board, nor has he been a member, though he has been a supporter of the trust.
The trust isn't a membership organization and has no record of Pfeiffer-Hoyt serving on its board.
The recall's proponents and Pfeiffer-Hoyt will get to argue their sides at the hearing.
If the judge approves the recall, the next step is a recall petition that will require 1,133 signatures - 35 percent of school district voters who participated in the board member's last election, said Whatcom County Auditor Debbie Adelstein. If enough signatures are collected, a recall vote likely would occur in February, and the school district would have to pay for it, Adelstein said.