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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  K-12 education

Recall effort targets three Central Valley school board members over masks, residency and more

Sept. 27, 2021 Updated Tue., Sept. 28, 2021 at 9:28 p.m.

Backed by a parents’ group, a Spokane Valley man has filed a recall petition against three members of the Central Valley School Board of Directors, alleging “malfeasance, misfeasance and violations” of their oaths of office.

The petition was filed Friday in Spokane County Superior Court by Rob Linebarger of the Central Valley School District Concerned Parents Coalition. It seeks approval to gather signatures with the aim of holding recall elections against Board president Debra Long and directors Cythnia McMullen and Keith Clark.

Most of the allegations center on the board’s handling of masking and vaccine mandates in the 15,000-student district.

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.

“I feel like we have the law on our side and that we have a justifiable case,” said Linebarger, who is being represented by Wolf Legal Group PLLC of Spokane.

However, Long and McMullen disputed the claims in email rebuttals sent to The Spokesman-Review.

“I look forward to the court determining that all these allegations are spurious,” McMullen said.

“I look forward to defending my integrity as this process plays out,” Long said.

That process will continue with the directors being served by the county. At that point, each will have 15 days to offer a rebuttal of the charges.

After that, a judge will rule on the validity of the petitions. Approval would clear the way for petition-gathering. According to state law, 25% of registered voters in each board member’s district must sign valid petitions for the issue to be decided by a recall petition.

On the issue of Long’s address, the petition contends that she and her husband, William, have physically resided outside the Central Valley School District through the last two election cycles, in 2015 and 2019.

The petition states that until 2013, the Longs lived on East Desmet Avenue, which is located within district boundaries. At that time, they purchased another house within the East Valley School District attendance area.

“That’s a big issue,” Linebarger said.

According to the petition, certified mail was sent at an unspecified date to the house on Desmet, and signed by Michael Yochum, who is Long’s grandson.

Long acknowledged owning two homes in Spokane Valley, but said that “my primary residence is on East Desmet. I am registered to vote at this address, and all services to this home are in my name. The gentleman who is mentioned in the complaint is my grandson who is temporarily staying at this address.”

Asked in a follow-up email whether she physically resides at the home on Desmet Avenue, Long replied “yes.”

The petition also 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.”

“What we are trying to advocate for is a choice,” Linebarger said.

McMullen countered that during the COVID-19 pandemic, she has “considered the information from many sources and constituents, both in favor and opposed,” and has “voted to protect the students, staff, families and community of the Central Valley School District.”

Long said the board has exercised its “best judgment in making decisions to protect the health and safety of our students and staff.”

Long also said reasonable accommodations have been offered to all employees, because they can apply for a religious or medical exemption should they not wish to be vaccinated.

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