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Recall petition ‘frivolous,’ attorney for three Central Valley School Board members says

The attorney representing three members of the Central Valley School District board of directors said a recall petition against them lacks merit .

“These are frivolous allegations that have no legal or factual basis whatsoever,” said Paul Clay, the attorney representing board president Debra Long and directors Cynthia McMullen and Keith Clark.

Clay also stated on Thursday that the petitioner, Rob Linebarger of Spokane Valley, is a “disgruntled citizen who’s trying to abuse the recall process.”

However, Linebarger’s attorney, Grant Wolf of Spokane, replied Friday that Long, McMullen and Clark “have supported policies that are beyond the scope of their positions, and potentially run afoul of other aspects of law, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

The recall petition was filed Sept. 25 in Spokane County Superior Court on Sept. 25, by Linebarger, representing the Central Valley School District Concerned Parents Coalition.

Most of the allegations center on the board’s handling of masking and vaccine mandates in the 15,000-student district. But the petition seems more aimed at masking and vaccine rules imposed statewide.

The petition also claims that Long, a board member since 2003, has lived outside the district for the past nine years, which would be a violation of district regulations.

However, Long told The Spokesman-Review that the home located inside the district has always been her primary residence.

Within the next two weeks, a judge will rule on the validity of the petitions. Approval would clear the way for petition-gathering and a possible recall election.

The petition won’t get that far, Clay predicted.

“There is no question in my mind that the allegations will be quickly dismissed by a judge,” he said.

The petition accuses Long, McMullen and Clark of “misuse of power and wrongful use of lawful authority … by mandating the use and placement of a medical device, specifically a mask, and now require District staff to have the first publicly available mRNA vaccination as a condition of employment” per an announcement on Aug. 11.

It also states that the board and the district “have not provided the necessary documentation related to the side effects of prolonged application of the medical device for children and adults forced to wear the mask nearly continuously for up to 8 hours a day.”

Among organizations that recommend that children wear masks in schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced in July that all school districts in Washington would be required to mandate masks to start this school year. In August, he announced that school employees would need to be vaccinated by Oct. 18 or face the possibility of losing their jobs.

According to Clay, the petition is driven by politics and not the law.

“The law says that recall charges cannot be filed solely because of a board member’s political positions,” Clay said. “The law also says that recall charges need to be specific, detailed, not based on assumptions, and they need to actually cite laws that were supposedly broken.”

Clay continued: “These charges don’t come close to sniffing the requirements of the law. In fact, the person filing this is complaining that these board members should be recalled because they followed the law.”

“He (Linebarger) isn’t complaining that the board members should be recalled because they broke the law. He just doesn’t like the law,” Clay said.

Wolf countered that he didn’t intend to “litigate this case in the media.

“Equally, it is not my intent to insult the school board members, and I would ask that the opposing side show the same respect to my client,” Wolf said.

“Ultimately, questions of fact and law exist in this case, and are properly outlined in the filed petition,” Wolf said. “The recall petitions are not personal attacks against the individuals in question.”

Linebarger is on the November ballot for a seat on the Central Valley School Board, but he has endorsed his challenger in the race, Pam Orebaugh, who also opposes mask and vaccine mandates. Retired Central Valley High School teacher Stan Chalich, who has supported the district’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, has filed a write-in candidacy to challenge Orebaugh.

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