The Orange County Board of Education is being sued for re-appointing one of their board members months after he resigned his seat by one of their constituents arguing what they did violated state appointment laws.
The lawsuit centers on Tim Shaw, the board’s trustee in the fourth district that covers cities such as Fullerton, La Habra, Anaheim and Placentia.
Shaw initially resigned his seat on the board of education in November to avoid a lawsuit after one of his constituents claimed his position on the board of education and on the La Habra City Council created a conflict of interest, despite the two agencies’ responsibilities not overlapping during his time on the board.
But next month, the county’s board of education decided to reappoint him to the board and he instead resigned his seat on the La Habra City Council. Shaw said he was forced to resign from the board of education because it was the seat he was most recently elected to, but wanted to stay there over the city council.
Now, Michael Sean Wright, one of the board’s constituents, is filing a lawsuit arguing what they did was illegal and that the board needs to hold a special election for the seat right away.
Lee Fink, the attorney for Wright, said in a Thursday phone interview that there is a state law in place that prohibits boards reappointing the person who resigns from an elected government body to the same position.
“After an arduous process, the County Board of Education simply disregarded that provision of the state law and appointed Mr. Shaw to the vacancy that he’d resigned from,” he said.
The law Fink is citing is Section 1752 of the government code, which says “No person elected or appointed to the governing body of any city, county or district having an elected governing body, shall be appointed to fill any vacancy on that governing body during the term for which he or she was elected or appointed.”
Fink said they intend to seek an expedited hearing and have their case heard quickly.
“This is not a complicated matter. The facts are clear. They’re all in the public record. They’re all facts that are established by the minutes of the Orange County Board of Education meetings,” he said.
Shaw disagreed, saying that the series of lawsuits against him were “legal harassment,” filed by people who didn’t like that he won the election.
“This is hail mary and they’re reaching for it…I won the election in 2020, fair and square, it wasn’t close.” Shaw said in a Thursday morning interview. “I’ve had nothing but frivolous lawsuits from these people, they’re just upset.”
He also argued the law that the suit cites doesn’t apply to the board.
“It says the governing body for a city, county or district. It doesn’t say the word board. We are a board of education,” Shaw said. “We hold elections for a reason…these people don’t want the voters to decide they want legal proceedings to throw me out of office because they can’t beat me fair and square.”
Shaw is up for election again in June of this year to serve out the remaining two years of his original term after his reappointment, making it unclear what the timing of a special election could look like if one were to proceed.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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