Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cole finally gives notice to school board

unedited Tahoe Mt. News Sept. story

By Kathryn Reed

As records go, Hal Cole would probably just assume forget the one involving the Lake Tahoe Unified School District. It’s hard to find someone else who had a shorter tenure on the school board.
Cole was sworn in March 27 to take over the seat Doug Forte gave up. Cole skipped the first meeting in April, showed up for the second one, and then was never seen again in the board room.
He kept telling people he was going to resign, but didn’t realize he had to put it in writing to make it official.
“I was just having a hard time writing the letter without sounding upset by the thing for self-pity or whatever,” Cole said Aug. 10, the day he handed board member Sue Novasel his resignation letter.
Cole had to decide between the school board and Barton Memorial Hospital’s board. He chose the latter to avoid a conflict of interest.
Months ago an attorney with the Lake Tahoe Unified School District ruled Cole could not serve on both boards. The decision is based on California Education Code.
“I wish I had known before I had applied for the job. Hindsight is 20-20,” Cole said.
Timing and laws dictate abandonment of office issues as well as how the board copes with a vacancy.
Dick Hamilton, with the California School Boards Association’s legal department, said a position needs to be vacant for three consecutive months for abandonment to be considered.
Superintendent Jim Tarwater described abandonment proceedings as a “pretty cumbersome process.”
Because Cole’s seat is on the Nov. 6 ballot, that played a huge in role in the decision to leave the chair empty. A school board does not have to fill the spot if a vacancy occurs within 120 days of the election.
Had Cole resigned in writing before July 7, his position would likely have been filled.
No harm has been done by operating with 80 percent capacity, according to Tarwater.
“Where you see impact is if you have a 2-2 board,” Tarwater said potential votes. “With four (members), you can still carry on business.”
Cole was eligible for his $20 stipend when he attended meetings. He never signed up for health benefits.

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