Kent School Board members Meghin Margel, Awale Farah and Tim Clark each face a civil lawsuit after their decision to form a Labor Policy Committee that excludes Board member Donald Cook. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Kent School Board members Meghin Margel, Awale Farah and Tim Clark each face a civil lawsuit after their decision to form a Labor Policy Committee that excludes Board member Donald Cook. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Kent School Board, district face civil lawsuit over exclusion of Cook

District resident, Cook each file suits to halt Labor Policy Committee

Two civil lawsuits have been filed against the Kent School District, three Kent School Board members and the superintendent in an effort to stop a resolution that eliminates one board member from participating in discussions about 11 union contracts.

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. That measure created a Labor Policy Committee with four of the five board members, excluding Donald Cook because his wife teachers in the district.

Cook filed a similar suit.

“It’s a done deal,” Nelson said in a Facebook post after filing the suit. “And it did not have to be this way. The KSD (Kent School District) Board and District had options to prevent this; the KSD Board and District chose not to. I will again state that I am not a lawyer, and I do not hold myself out to be one.”

But lawyer or not, Nelson filed suit against the district, Superintendent Israel Vela, the board, the Labor Policy Committee and individual board members Meghin Margel, Tim Clark and Awale Farah.

“Donald Cook’s complaint is substantially similar to the one I filed, and both cases request the consolidation of any/all complaints from any/all aggrieved parties regarding the same subject matter (Resolution 1669), in an effort to preserve judicial resources, and so that the same judge will review the ‘substantially similar’ claims,” Nelson wrote on April 2.

”You will notice that my lawsuit filing has errors in it, but the beauty about the civil process is now that I have my filing completed (and have submitted my complaint on time),” Nelson said. “I’ll be able to perfect and correct the errors in my claims, and even add new claims. Let’s see what a King County Superior Court judge has to say about Resolution 1669.”

Nelson said there are various ways she can get in front of a judge well before the March 31, 2025 trial date (set after her filing) to receive various rulings.

The Kent School District communications team, as of Tuesday afternoon, April 2, had not responded to an email from the Kent Reporter for comment about the lawsuits.

Cook and fellow new board member Andy Song attempted at the March 27 meeting to get the rest of the board to repeal the measure, but Margel, Clark and Farah declined to take that step. Margel, Clark and Farah on a 3-2 vote Feb. 27 approved the formation of the committee to ban Cook from any labor contract meetings with the district’s 11 employee groups.

The board said it singled out Cook because his wife teaches in the Kent School District. Cook has said numerous times he would recuse himself from any teacher contract talks or votes because of the potential conflict of interest.

The board majority, however, said that even Cook’s presence at meetings to discuss contracts with other labor groups, such as office workers, bus drivers, maintenance workers and others, could indicate a bias because he might want more money for teachers over other employees.

Nelson argues in her suit that the board’s action “has a major and unprecedented impact on one of the key functions of a school board member’s position, the policy making and oversight of the district on labor matters, which necessarily include listening to and participating in discussions in exempt sessions.

In Nelson’s suit, she said herself, Cook and all taxpayers (the electorate) within the district “will suffer harm if Resolution 1669 remains in place and is not immediately suspended.”

Nelson said the board and district do not have “the authority or jurisdiction to delegate a right or power of authority that is granted to Director Donald Cook by the electorate, as provided in Washington law and public policy, to elected and unelected municipal officers of the district.”

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