Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier on Tuesday denied initial paperwork for a recall of five Garden City Community College Board of Trustees due to its violation of state statute.
On May 6, community members Toni Douglass, Zach Worf and Maxine Atkinson filed paperwork for petitions to recall Board of Trustees Chair Steve Martinez, Vice Chair Terri Worf and members Merilyn Douglass, Jeff Crist and Blake Wasinger. The petitions were submitted to the county clerk’s office, which then gave them to Richmeier for review.
Two of the committee members are related to board members. Toni and Merilyn Douglass are sisters-in-law and Zach and Terri Worf are cousins by marriage. The three community members spearheading the effort, as well as other recall supporters, accused the board members of not acting in the best interest of students and faculty, placing the college’s accreditation and athletic programs in jeopardy and failing to provide a safe learning environment at the college.
Richmeier said she denied the petitions because of the number of trustees the sponsors attempted to recall. According to state statute, the number of simultaneously recalled local officials on the same governing body cannot be more than a majority plus one. Richmeier said per this statute, only three members of the six-member board could be recalled at once. She said her judgment regarding the petitions did not go any further than the clear violation.
Letters were mailed to Toni Douglass, Zach Worf and Atkinson on Tuesday stating the denial and explaining state statutes that relate to the recall process, Richmeier said.
Toni Douglass said the recall committee plans to refile paperwork soon, but added that they need to regroup and discuss which board members they wish to recall. Zach Worf and Atkinson agreed.
The board recently retained Kansas City lawyer Greg Goheen to investigate claims made in a Faculty Senate report presented to the board in May. The report accused GCCC President Herbert Swender of creating a toxic work environment that could cost the college its accreditation, and calls for Swender's termination.
Martinez and Merilyn Douglass were glad to hear news that the recall effort was denied.
Martinez said he wished the community would wait for the results of the investigation before deciding whether board members should be recalled. He said he thought the board was going a good job and listening to the community.
Merilyn Douglass felt similarly.
“I didn’t feel any of us are doing bad jobs or a job that’s worthy of that kind of attack … We’ll just continue to do the best and make the best decisions that we can for this college. That’s what we’ve always done,” she said.
Terri Worf said simply it was the right of the people to petition the board, should they wish.
“My job is to be an elected official, so if I’m serving the public well or not serving to the way they appreciate, I defer to them. Absolutely,” she said.
Wasinger declined to comment on the matter.
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