NEWBERG, Ore. — A pair of petitions to recall Newberg school board vice chair Brian Shannon and board chair Dave Brown have each officially obtained enough signatures to qualify for a vote next month, Yamhill County Clerk Brian Van Bergen confirmed on Friday.
Van Vergen said an election is scheduled for January 18, 2022. Unless one of them resigns, both Shannon and Brown will appear on one ballot and registered voters within the Newberg School District will be able to vote.
Shannon and Brown comprise one half of the Newberg school board’s four-member conservative majority, which has drawn national attention in the past four months after it banned district staff from displaying LGBTQ+ pride or Black Lives Matter Signs and abruptly fired Superintendent Joe Morelock without cause.
The Recall Shannon campaign’s website cites both of those issues as causes for the recall effort, stating that Shannon “has overreached, driving his ideological agenda in a manner that is both ethically, and legally, questionable.”
The campaign posted a letter to its Facebook page on Monday from Van Bergen confirming that his office had verified 3,150 voter signatures gathered by the campaign, several hundred more than the 2,547 minimum number required to qualify for a recall election.
The election will move forward unless Shannon resigns within five days of the qualification notice, according to the letter. The Oregonian/OregonLive reported on Monday that Shannon said he has no intention of resigning.
The Recall Shannon campaign began in mid-September, and the Recall Brown effort launched in mid-November, less than a week after the board fired Morelock. Dundee resident Zachary Goff is the chief petitioner for both campaigns.
The Recall Dave Brown campaign announced on Monday that it had submitted more than the required number of signatures to the county clerk for verification. Goff previously told KGW that the goal was to hand in the Dave Brown signatures soon enough to put the two measures on the same ballot.
The Newberg school board convened Tuesday evening for its first regular meeting since the firing of Morelock. The board met for a special meeting last week to interview candidate firms to conduct an executive search for a new superintendent. The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting included hiring an interim superintendent and selecting a firm to conduct the search.
The recall campaign leaders have also taken issue with Brown’s handling of the superintendent search. Alsea School District Superintendent and current Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Thielman said Brown approached him in October and asked if he would be interested in the Newberg position.
In a Dec. 1 press release, the Recall Brown campaign claimed that Brown acted “improperly and possibly illegally” when he approached Thielman because the school board as a whole must initiate the superintendent search process.
Controversial board decisions
The board adopted a controversial policy on Aug. 11 banning district employees from displaying LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter signs on campuses. Morelock told the board on Sept. 1 that he would not uphold the ban because district lawyers had advised him that it was unconstitutional. The board adopted an amended policy on Sept. 28 that banned all political displays.
The agenda for the Nov. 9 included a public hearing for the board to consider whether to overturn a recent decision by Morelock in which he had concluded that a sign in a classroom window did not violate the ban, but it made no mention of the possibility of firing him.
Brown, Shannon and board members Renee Powell and Trevor DeHart voted at the meeting to table the discussion about overturning Morelock’s decision, and Brown separately introduced a motion to fire Morelock without cause, which the same four members voted to adopt.
The board’s three dissenting members said they had not been given sufficient time to review a packet with information about the resolution, because it had not been made available to them until an executive session that was held shortly before the main Nov. 9 meeting.
Emails obtained by KGW through a public records request appeared to back up that claim; they showed that earlier that afternoon Brown copied the other board members in a reply to an email from attorney Tyler Smith that was said to contain an updated information packet “on the process of consideration of Complaints relating to the Superintendent for tonight’s meeting(s),” but board secretary Jennifer Nelson and board member Ines Peña both replied that the packet was not attached to Brown’s email.