Kent School Board members Leslie Hamada, left, and Michele Bettinger face a potential recall. COURTESY FILE PHOTO, Kent School District

Kent School Board members Leslie Hamada, left, and Michele Bettinger face a potential recall. COURTESY FILE PHOTO, Kent School District

Two Kent School Board members face potential recall

Hamada, Bettinger subjects of petition by candidate for this year’s election

Bryon Madsen, a Kent resident and 2021 school board candidate, filed a petition May 7 to recall four of the five Kent School Board members.

Recall filings against Leslie Hamada and Michele Bettinger are moving forward, according to a May 24 email from Halei Watkins, communications officer for King County Elections.

The recalls against Denise Daniels and Maya Vengadasalam are 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, Watkins said. Daniels and Vengadasalam are up for reelection in November, although each decided not to run again.

No petition to recall was filed against Joe Bento. 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.

Madsen, who lost to Daniels in the 2017 election, is one of four candidates running to replace her. The others are Bradley Kenning, Awale Farah and Willie Middleton Sr.

Voters elected Hamada and Bettinger in 2019 to four-year terms. Hamada ran unopposed and Bettinger defeated David Canterbury with 69% of the vote.

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

■ 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 lists dates of violations from 2018 to 2021.

Hamada disputed the charges in a May 24 email to the Kent Reporter.

“Personally, I am very disappointed with the filing of the recall petition on myself,” Hamada said. “I have been working hard for the past year and 4½ months to: learn my new job, ask for more communication to our public and transparency, and do this job in a very challenging environment and the onset of a pandemic.

“There are 10 major issues brought forth in this petition and of the eight listed of those (by date of happening onset) I was not even on the board when they took place and the other two brought forward were faced within the scope of my job with integrity and following the law.

“We have many challenges to address in our district which I work hard each day to solve. This unfortunately takes time to address away from needed work. I look forward to proving these allocations in regards to myself have no merit so I can get on with the real work ahead of us and making Kent School District the best in the state.”

The school board voted 3-0 during a special meeting May 24 to approve legal representation by the district for Bettinger and Hamada as they face the potential recall. Daniels, Vengadasalam and Bento voted in favor of the measure. Bettinger and Hamada did not vote because they were the subject of the vote.

“I will always support a citizen’s right to petition for recall,” Bettinger said in a May 24 email. “In my time on the KSD board I have always been outspoken in my advocacy for listening to and representing the voices of the local community and its electorate. I believe seriously in my obligation to fulfill my legal sworn duties; and have done my best to do my work in public, within the parameters of law and policy to support the students of the Kent School District.”

A sufficiency hearing to determine the merits of the petition will be at 3 p.m. on 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.

“This hearing is where they evaluate whether the charges – if true – are ‘an act of malfeasance, or act or acts of misfeasance while in office, or has violated the oath of office, or has been guilty of any two or more of the acts specified in the Constitution as grounds for recall,’” said Watkins, of King County Elections.

“One important thing to note is that the court does not decide if the charges are true or false – they only decide that if true the charges meet the bar of malfeasance or misfeasance,” Watkins said.

If Judge Widlan deems the recall charges sufficient, the ballot synopsis is then approved or revised by the judge. The sponsors of the recall then have 180 days to obtain and turn in the required amount of valid signatures, Watkins said.

For Bettinger, they would need 10,991 signatures and for Hamada, they would need 8,802 signatures. The number of signatures required is equal to 35% of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for the office to which they were elected.

Hamada said that Madsen emailed her four times on various topics in 2020.

“I answered three and those issues were addressed,” Hamada said. “The fourth was about the superintendent’s contract and it would have been inappropriate for me to comment on that email. Mr. Madsen was offered the opportunity to meet with me in person, by phone, or email. He never followed up on those invitations.”


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