The USD 231 school district attorney, Joseph Hatley, received a letter from an Olathe attorney on behalf of “citizens” requesting that the school board nullify the recent appointments of Tresa Boden and Mary Nelson to the board of education.
Attorney Michael C. Hunter wrote a letter on behalf of “citizens” saying the process board members used to replace Shelta Collins and Tim Rayburn was flawed. Hunter did not divulge his clients, but the letter, dated Oct. 15, is addressed to Hatley on behalf of board president Mark Grannell and USD 231 board members.
Board members replaced Rayburn and former board member Shelta Collins during a meeting on Sept. 16. Both resigned their positions on the board because they were moving out of the district. Collins tendered her resignation on Aug. 22, effective immediately. Rayburn announced his pending resignation in an Aug. 28 USD 231 memo, written by interim superintendent Christy Zeigler.
Rayburn continued to serve on the board until a replacement was appointed, and he voted to approve Boden into the role during a Sept. 16 board meeting.
Hunter’s letter to Hatley addresses some of the concerns board member Brad Chandler voiced at the Sept. 16 board meeting. Chandler said he questioned the process the board was using to make an appointment into a board member seat that was not yet vacant. He and board member Rob Shippy abstained from a vote that approved the process that followed.
The board, including Rayburn, unanimously approved the appointment of Rayburn’s replacement, Tresa Boden. Boden was the only candidate for Rayburn’s seat. Chandler abstained from the vote that appointed Mary Nelson into Collins’ seat. There were several other candidates vying for the position.
Hunter’s letter to the USD 231 attorney takes a similar position.
“A successor cannot be appointed if a vacancy never occurs… Without the vacancy, there can be no publication of vacancy and no appointment of a new member,” Hunter’s letter reads. “…For these reasons, citizens ask that the board render the Sept. 16 appointments null and void, correct their appointment process, and begin the reappointment process to reflect the will of the Kansas Legislature.”
Several board members did not know of the letter’s existence.
“I have not been notified by the district of any board members about said potential litigation,” Chandler wrote in an email to The Gardner News. “I don’t know what/how I could comment on this anyway, since I have not been contacted.”
Shippy and Boden also said they did not know about the letter until it was provided by The Gardner News.
“At this time I am unable to comment about potential litigation as I was unaware of any possible litigation occurring against the school district,” Shippy said.
Board president Mark Grannell said the board has not discussed the letter.
“It is my understanding that no litigation has been filed,” Grannell wrote in an email to The Gardner News. “The Board stands behind the approach taken in open session, and as a result, has no further comment on the matter.”
Hunter and Hatley briefly discussed the appointment process via telephone before Hunter sent the letter. According to Hunter, the school’s attorney said to go ahead and send his analysis of the appointment process in written form. Hunter sent his letter on Oct. 15.
He has yet to receive a response from the district or Hatley.
“You definitely would’ve expected a response by now,” Hunter said.
If he doesn’t receive a response from the school district, Hunter said the next steps are unclear. Hunter said he could request an opinion from a higher authority, like the Kansas Association of School Boards of the Attorney General’s Office or file a lawsuit.
“Normally, I’m pretty non-combative,” Hunter said. “I don’t like to take things straight to court.”