October 5, 2004
The governing board of the Higley Unified School District plans to file a lawsuit this week in another attempt to derail a possible consolidation with the Gilbert district.
Higley attorney Roger Hall said Monday he will file the suit that will ame "several county officials" in either Superior, Appellate or Arizona Supreme Court — whichever body is the most appropriate.
Voters from the Higley and Gilbert unified school districts will decide on Nov. 2 whether they want to merge. Higley’s board, which includes two new members, maintains the vote is moot because the issue wasn’t placed on the ballot properly by the former board. Former board president Todd Nuttall and member Peggy Zornes were recalled by voters in September and replaced by Kim Anderson and Greg Land.
Hall said the previous board violated parliamentary procedure when it voted to put the issue to voters.
"They only voted to stop discussion on the issue," he said.
Anderson, the new board president, said the board is pursuing legal action because it doesn’t want to "leave the district open to potential liability." Hall and the board concluded that if they don’t take action now, Higley voters might sue the district after the election.
The lawsuit won’t stop the issue from going to voters — but would be used to invalidate the vote.
Hall said he will ask for an expedited ruling on the issue so voters will know when they go to the polls whether or not their vote matters.
Nuttall said voters should consider suing the district if the board is successful in invalidating their decision.
Calling the lawsuit "an atrocity," Nuttall said the board should not be using taxpayers’ money to hinder the people’s right to decide the issue.
"This is the biggest joke of small town politics, and people should be outraged," he said.
Nuttall maintains that even if the two governing boards had not put the issue on the ballot, community members were already gathering petition signatures to put the issue to voters. "They stopped their efforts because we put it on the ballot instead," he said.
A shift in power has had some Higley and Gilbert board members trying to stop the proposed consolidation of their districts from going to voters in November. Sheldon Jones, who was president of the Gilbert board that approved putting the issue on the ballot, resigned this summer to move out of state. Jones and ousted Higley board members Nuttall and Zornes had been three of the biggest proponents of consolidation.
But board members were told by county election officials that once an issue is placed on a ballot, state law prohibits its removal. Gilbert governing board members could not be reached for comment Monday.