Tim Shaw took his seat on the county board of education back on Tuesday night after choosing to leave it nearly two months ago to avoid a lawsuit.
The suit was brought by Melissa Louden, one of Shaw’s constituents who argued that his position on both the board of education and his 13–year stint on the La Habra City Council created a conflict of interest since their jurisdictions overlapped in La Habra.
He abruptly resigned from the La Habra City Council on Tuesday to avoid serving in two separate offices and the potential lawsuit stemming from it.
Shaw was elected to the board of education in 2020 to represent the county’s fourth district, which includes cities such as Fullerton, La Habra, Anaheim and Placentia.
The county board of education doesn’t make decisions regarding curriculum in classrooms aside from recommendations to local school districts, but does handle charter school application, interdistrict student transfers, and is responsible for approving the county department of education’s budget.
Shaw said he was forced to resign from his seat on the board, but that he found the experience “a lot more rewarding,” than serving on a city council.
“The only way for me to make the lawsuit stop was to resign from the board of education because I was most recently elected to the city council,” Shaw said in a phone call with Voice of OC on Dec. 17. “But there’s nothing stopping me from going in and being reappointed back to the board of education and I obviously have a strong moral claim that I won the election.”
After Shaw announced his resignation in November, the board announced they would be appointing someone to fill the gap, and encouraged residents from the fourth district to apply for the position.
Half a dozen other residents from the fourth district also applied for the seat, including Paulette Chaffee, wife of county supervisor Doug Chaffee, alongside a CSU Fullerton professor,
But after over an hour interviewing and discussing candidates, board member Ken Williams Jr. asked if they could delay a decision altogether and instead reopen applications for one more day, then make the final decision on Dec. 27.
Under the board of education’s own rules, a decision had to be made by Jan 2. or the issue would go back to the ballot for a special election the board would need to foot the bill for.
Staff members from the department of education said they were unsure they could properly notify the public of the meeting due to holiday vacations.
“The staff can’t ruin what the board wants to do,” Williams said.
“I can’t sit here and tell you yes I can do that because I don’t know,” said one staff member asked about the issue by Williams. “I can’t control holiday schedules and external offices and what their schedules are.”
Williams and board chair Mari Barke then left the room along with the board’s lawyer to discuss the issue, leaving members Lisa Sparks and Beckie Gomez on their own in the boardroom as public commenters yelled out from the audience asking them where they were going.
A few minutes later, Williams returned and asked for the board to approve Shaw’s application, which passed in a 3-1 vote, Gomez opposed.
Shaw told reporters before the meeting that if he was reappointed to the board, he planned to resign from the La Habra city council at their next meeting, but instead resigned the morning of the board’s discussion.
The city of La Habra issued a press release that they would be considering who to appoint for the remainder of Shaw’s term in January 2022.
It remains unclear exactly how long Shaw’s seat on the board will last, as it went undiscussed in the meeting.
The appointment was set to last until the 2022 election to determine who would fill the seat for the remaining two years of Shaw’s term, but now that he’s returned to the seat it’s an open question of whether or not he’ll serve those two years or have to run again in just a few months.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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