A recall drive has been dropped against Kent School Board members Leslie Hamada, left, and Michele Bettinger. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

A recall drive has been dropped against Kent School Board members Leslie Hamada, left, and Michele Bettinger. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Madsen drops Kent School Board recall effort against two members

Cites comfort with Bettinger, Hamada; claims cost of legal fees to district would be too high

Bryon Madsen decided to dismiss his petitions to recall Kent School Board members Michele Bettinger and Leslie Hamada.

“Once the recall petition highlighted the issues with the district, I reached out to the attorney for Leslie and Michele,” Madsen said in a June 3 email. “If the law firm was paid on retainer, meaning the district pays the same regardless, I would have continued with the hearing. However, the firm is paid by the hour.

“As such, I asked for a meeting with the attorney, Leslie and Michele. I am comfortable with them representing the parents who voted for them and indirectly to their children.”

Seattle attorney Duncan Fobes, who represented Bettinger and Hamada, confirmed the dismissal.

“After a meeting, Mr. Madsen decided to dismiss his petitions and we filed a stipulation with the court,” Fobes said in an email. “There were no conditions or consideration for the dismissal.”

Madsen was not represented by an attorney at the meeting, Fobes said.

“From the outset, we felt that the petitions were without merit and are pleased with this outcome,” Fobes said.

Madsen, a Kent resident, filed a petition May 7 to recall four of the five Kent School Board members, but only the petitions against Bettinger and Hamada moved forward because they are not up for reelection. Voters elected Bettinger and Hamada in 2019.

The recalls against Denise Daniels and Maya Vengadasalam were not valid because a petition may not be circulated less than six months before the next general election in which the officer whose recall is demanded is subject to reelection, according to a King County Elections spokesperson. Daniels and Vengadasalam are up for reelection in November, although each decided not to run again.

A sufficiency hearing to determine the merits of the petition had been set for June 8 in front of King County Superior Court Judge Sandra Widlan, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which determined the petition met the requirements of the statutes.

“If Maya and/or Denise were to still be on the ballot for this November, I would have continued to the oral hearing,” Madsen said. “As the charges in the recall petition are factual in nature, I personally feel there was a good chance the petition would have been granted.”

Hamada had doubts if the case would have gone forward.

“ I always felt these petitions were without merit and I am pleased with the outcome of the dismissal,” Hamada said in an email. “I, totally, believe our constituents and community need to be heard in our directions and issues going forward.

“As I have openly stated many times, I am totally available to talk with anyone that wishes input in our district. Moving forward we have great work to do and I am laser focused on: our kids, our schools, our budget and our staff. Kent School District has the potential to be the best in the state with its tapestry of diversity and a community that has stepped up always to support and value its impact in our area.”

Bettinger looks forward to moving on from the recall effort.

“I always do my best to fulfill my duties within the parameters of law and policy and will continue to do so,” she said in an email.

Madsen said he’s fine with dropping the case.

“Knowing and getting comfortable with Michele and Leslie, knowing that it would actually take incremental funds from the district, having now highlighted to the Kent community the status of our district, the recall petition fulfilled its purpose,” he said.

Madsen, who lost to Daniels in the 2017 election, is one of four candidates running to replace her in District No. 4. The others are Bradley Kenning, Awale Farah and Willie Middleton Sr. Candidates George Alvarez, Tim Clark and Sara Franklin are running to replace Vengadasalam in District No. 5.

“I simply ask that with the additional people running in the two districts that the Kent community really focus on electing the persons who will only prioritize the education of children and youth,” Madsen said. “The community certainly does not need to feel that I think I am the one for that purpose in District 4. I do not know the others. Very potentially others are better. Feel free to vote for them.”

Madsen didn’t file a petition to recall Joe Bento because he just joined the board. He was appointed by the board earlier this year to replace Leah Bowen, who resigned after one year in office. Bento is running unopposed to keep his seat on the five-member board.

The charges for a recall of Bettinger and Hamada filed by Madsen included:

■ Failed to publicly follow-up, investigate and resolve the concerns raised in the no confidence votes (in Superintendent Calvin Watts) and communications from the Kent Education Association and the principals association.

■ Failed to comply with the state-mandated duties in RCW 28A.150.230 related to the setting of policies ensuring quality in the content and extent of its educational program, especially related to evaluation of the superintendent, establishing final curriculum standards and evaluating teaching materials.

■ Failed to comply with a large number of board-approved policies, including policy review, duties of board members, meeting conduct, order of business and quorums, evaluation of the superintendent, annual goals and objectives, program compliance, community relations, complaints concerning staff or programs, budget responsibility, fund balance and purchasing and contracting authorization and control.

The petition listed dates of violations from 2018 to 2021.

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