Local Democratic Party volunteers and community activists filed a petition with 1,400 signatures Wednesday in an attempt to force Twin Rivers Unified to hold an Area 5 election, potentially reversing a recent appointment to the school board.
If 1,083 of the signatures are validated by the Sacramento County elections office, a special election will take place as early as May, said Kerri Asbury, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Sacramento County, which helped lead the petition drive. Organizers were confident they had gathered enough signatures after verifying 1,100 of them using voter registration records.
Board members last month appointed charter school leader Sonja Cameron to fill a vacancy created when Cortez Quinn resigned after pleading no contest to a felony in October.
The controversy over the appointment began after school board members chose Cameron at a Dec. 8 meeting rather than at another meeting scheduled for three days later. Activists said that action was illegal and shut out the public.
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“I’m ecstatic, ecstatic,” said Sascha Vogt, a Twin Rivers parent and one of the petitioners. “I know in principle it’s the right thing to do.”
The signatures on the petition were collected by residents, the Del Paso Heights Community Association and volunteers enlisted by the Democratic Party of Sacramento County over 12 days.
“Not only did we meet the number but it always warms my heart to see the community come together in partnership,” Asbury said. “There were neighborhood associations, parents, community members and activists out there walking.”
It would cost the district approximately $113,040 if it holds an election in Area 5 and $708,570 for a districtwide contest.
“We’re looking at a lot of money for an election for one year, but the process was followed and it’s now up to the people of Area 5,” said Twin Rivers trustee Michael Baker. “I will support whoever they choose.”
If enough signatures are validated and the election is certified, Cameron would have to step down, said David Gordon, Sacramento County schools chief. He said state law allows 30 days to validate the signatures and up to another 130 days for the election to be held.
In a twist, it remains unclear which district residents would be eligible to vote if the petition drive succeeds. The confusion stems from the fact that Quinn was re-elected in 2012 when Twin Rivers held at-large elections across the district. Later that year, voters passed Measure G, which required trustees in future elections to run for office representing districts based on geography.
Gordon said he is awaiting a legal opinion about who should be able to vote in the election. “It’s to be determined by an interpretation of the law,” he said Wednesday after the petition was filed. “The hope is that between Twin Rivers, us and the (Sacramento County) registrar’s office we would have consensus.”
If enough signatures are validated, it would be the first time in a decade that an appointed trustee was unseated by a petition drive calling for a special election, Gordon said. “This is unusual,” he said.
Cameron, the chief operations officer of a charter school network based in Rio Linda, was appointed to the seat vacated by Quinn, who pleaded no contest to conspiring to obstruct justice in a paternity case and is serving an eight-month county jail sentence. The seat will be up for election again in 2016.
Cameron could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
Call The Bee’s Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Follow her on Twitter @dianalambert.