BELLINGHAM - A Mount Baker School Board member will not face recall, after a judge rejected a bid to oust him from office for what some considered an improper vote on a land swap that would eliminate a school funding source.
Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Steven Mura on Friday, Sept. 28, said Russ Pfeiffer-Hoyt couldn't be recalled for making a "bonehead decision," if that's what John Lamonte and other recall proponents thought of the vote.
"You have to wait till the next election. Then you can go for it," Mura told Lamonte and about 20 interested members of the public in Mura's courtroom.
Pfeiffer-Hoyt was part of a 5-0 vote in December 2011 to accept a $500,000 gift from Whatcom Land Trust to the school district for the benefit of students. In exchange, the district agreed not to pursue legal action against the transfer of 8,844 acres in Lake Whatcom watershed from the state to the county for use as a park.
The transfer, or reconveyance, would mean the school district could no longer collect revenue from timber harvests on the land.
Recall proponents claimed Pfeiffer-Hoyt was a member of the Land Trust and had served on its Advisory Board in 2003-04, claims the school board member has denied - although he has donated to the nonprofit. The connection amounted to a conflict of interest, the recall charges stated.
Mura rejected that argument because Pfeiffer-Hoyt didn't receive personal financial benefit from his vote.
Lamonte and others pushing for a recall vote said they had no immediate plans in the wake of Mura's decision, at least not before the next election. Pfeiffer-Hoyt was re-elected to the school board in 2011 in an uncontested race. He's next up for election again in 2015.
School officials stood by Pfeiffer-Hoyt in previous interviews, saying he was an ethical man who has carefully researched his decisions in his 14 years on the board.
The decision on the reconveyance is in the hands of the Whatcom County Council, which voted earlier this week to review plans for the land more thoroughly over the next several months before taking a vote.