Three Kent School Board members, Meghin Margel, Awale Farah and Tim Clark face a civil lawsuit after they voted to pass a resolution that excludes Board member Donald Cook from labor contract negotiations. Superintendent Israel Vela and the Kent School District face the same lawsuit. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Three Kent School Board members, Meghin Margel, Awale Farah and Tim Clark face a civil lawsuit after they voted to pass a resolution that excludes Board member Donald Cook from labor contract negotiations. Superintendent Israel Vela and the Kent School District face the same lawsuit. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Civil suit against Kent School District, board moves forward

Efforts continue to end resolution that excludes one board member from all labor contract talks

A civil lawsuit against the Kent School District, three Kent School Board members and the superintendent that seeks to stop a resolution that eliminates one board member from participating in union contract discussions, will receive a hearing June 27 in King County Superior Court.

A motion for a temporary restraining order to halt Resolution 1669 was denied by Pro Tem Commissioner Amanda Williamson during a June 13 hearing at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. But Williamson granted the request for a hearing where the attorneys for the district, board members Meghin Margel, Awale Farah and Tim Clark and Superintendent Israel Vela, must explain why the resolution should remain in place during the litigation.

Greta Nelson, of Renton, who has a student in the district, filed suit March 29 in King County Superior Court. Nelson told the board at its March 27 meeting she planned to file suit if it didn’t repeal Resolution 1669, approved on a controversial 3-2 vote Feb. 27. That measure created a Labor Policy Committee with four of the five board members, excluding Donald Cook because his wife teaches in the district. Cook filed a similar suit, which is part of the joint motion by Nelson and Cook.

Nelson said the June 27 hearing in front of a judge would just be a temporary result.

“The end goal of plaintiffs in this litigation is the diligent pursuit of a final determination of the court in the litigation,” Nelson said in a social media post. “Should the KSD (Kent School District) and its board drop Resolution 1669 before being forced by the court to do so, it won’t matter for plaintiffs’ strategy in this litigation. The damage to the public has already been done.

“Plaintiffs intend to pursue a final determination of the court that states that the KSD and its board have no authority to create a committee that becomes a second governing body of the district (because it contains a quorum of the board), and can never do it again.”

Nelson also hopes to get a court order during the process to allow the public to vote to recall Margel, Farah and Clark without having to file a separate measure.

“Plaintiffs’ respective (and eventual) amended complaints will be fleshed out to include a request for an order of sufficiency for board recall so that the public is then able to pursue a board recall of certain board members, without having to initiate a separate action in Superior Court in order to do so,” Nelson said.

Nelson argued (via Zoom) in court June 13 that the board isn’t allowed to create a second governing body with a quorum (at least three members) and that it only can create two-member committees. She said by excluding Cook from labor contract details he cannot fully represent the people that voted for him.

Andrea Bradford, an attorney with Foster Garvey in Seattle, argued on behalf of the school district, the three board members and Vela.

Bradford called the dispute “a political disagreement” rather than a judicial matter. She said the Labor Relation Committee isn’t another governing body and that the board was allowed to form it as a committee.

Cook has said he would recuse himself from any contract votes with the Kent Education Association (teachers union), but wants to be involved in contract details with the other labor partners.

Bradford said the committee was formed because the majority of the board believes having Cook involved in other talks could be a conflict of interest or show unfairness because he still might look at those negotiations and how agreements could benefit the teachers union.

No union groups in the district, however, have publicly complained about Cook’s presence in negotiations with labor partners other than the teachers union. Among the nine other groups are office workers, bus drivers and maintenance workers.

In fact, the leaders of seven labor groups, including the teachers union, submitted a letter at the May 22 school board meeting asking for the resignations of Vela and Margel. The letter listed nine reasons for them to resign, including the adoption of the resolution that excluded Cook from labor talks.

The newly formed Kent Labor Alliance said the vote was taken before the district talked to all labor groups and those staff talked to favored Cook’s involvement as long as he recused himself from the teachers union contract talks because his wife teaches in the district. Cook already had promised to step aside from any role in teacher contracts.

Instead, the board “silenced Cook,” according to the labor group.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

t
Kent Police arrest woman in domestic violence case after 4-hour standoff

27-year-old woman reportedly attacked husband, father-in-law Monday, July 22

t
Kent man, 47, under investigation for vehicular assault on SR 509

Wrong-way driver in northbound lanes collided with two vehicles; 6 people injured in Burien crash

9th Congressional District Rep. Adam Smith, 8th Congressional District Rep. Kim Schrier, 1st Congressional District Rep. Suzan DelBene and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell are among Democrats from Washington state who support President Joe Biden’s decision to stop his re-election campaign. Courtesy photos
WA Democrat leaders ‘applaud’ Biden for dropping out of race

Smith, Schrier, DelBene and Cantwell released statements in support of President Biden’s Sunday decision to no longer seek re-election.

t
Gov. Inslee appoints Pat Sullivan to lead state budget office

Sullivan previously served as House District 47 state representative for Kent, Covington, Auburn

t
Kent Police seek man who reportedly tried to kidnap girl from apartment

Man allegedly reached into bathroom window to grab girl in attempted kidnapping

t
Kent Police arrest man, 18, in fatal shooting of 13-year-old boy

Judge finds probable cause to hold the Kent man for murder, attempted murder and robbery

The Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center in Seattle that handles juvenile detention. COURTESY PHOTO, King County
High-profile juvenile crimes continue to rock Kent this summer

Six incidents in five weeks include fatal shooting, vehicular homicide, vehicular assault

King County Correctional Facility in Seattle. COURTESY PHOTO, King County
Kent man charged with attempted kidnapping of 6-year-old girl

40-year-old man allegedly try to take girl from apartment complex parking lot

Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. FILE PHOTO
Kent man receives 8-year sentence in 2021 fatal shooting

Pleaded guilty to lesser charge of manslaughter in shooting at apartment complex over parking dispute

Courtesy Photo, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
Judge finds probable cause to hold Kent man for kidnapping girl

Man, 40, reportedly grabbed 6-year-old girl in East Hill apartment complex parking lot

t
King County residential property values rise 12.4% in SE Kent

King County Assessor John Wilson begins to release 2024 numbers

t
Three 11-year-old girls in Kent help stop kidnapping of 6-year-old girl

40-year-old man reportedly grabbed girl in apartment complex parking lot on East Hill