These are items of concern that are outside the scope of the charges on the recall petition, but are still relevant. This recall is complex, and these concerns will help to explain and provide context.
There are $72,200 in known legal costs so far:
$8,800 for advice from outside attorneys in an an attempt to find a legal way around the mask mandate
$2,700 to have an outside attorney evaluate RSD attorney Galt Pettett
$24,900 in legal fees to defend against the charge of violating the Open Public Meetings Act (Arthur West lawsuit--which is completely separate from the Recall)
$5,000 to settle the Arthur West lawsuit
$30,800 bill (submitted July 2022) from Jerry Moberg, the private attorney representing Directors Byrd, Bird, and Williams in the Recall. RSD refused to pay the bill.
While $72,200 is concerning, what is more concerning are the costs we don't know about.
Their short-sighted actions have already left the district open to legal action and attracted the attention of the ACLU once. What are the potential future legal costs if Directors Byrd, Bird, and Williams remain on the board?
Byrd, Bird, and Williams hired attorney Jerry Moberg to represent them in the recall. The Richland School District did not hire him.
Semi Bird, April 26, 2022, before voting yes on a motion to have the district pay legal expenses associated with the recall:
I would say let it get to the judge and see what the judge says. And I think, really, we would say if the judge says ‘no,’ well then naturally any legal expenses that have been put forth, we should have indemnification on — and I think we would all probably agree with that. Anything moving past that, I’ll foot my own bill — that’s just how I am. I took a stance, and I stand by my stance that I took and I believe I acted in good faith, so I’m going to let the system do what the system does.
The system has found the recall petition legal, factual, and sufficient TWICE.
"I have to delete my texts and even apps on a regular basis because I just don't have enough phone storage," Byrd told the Tri-City Herald in a voice message.
The text exchanges showed:
Byrd's desire to fire the district's superintendent and "deal with the chaos of the teachers union" rather than return kids to school with masks.
Byrd stating she planned to delete her message exchange with Williams.
A statement from Byrd that the board needs to find a way to have direct power to discipline district employees and to be able to more tightly control the superintendent's hiring choices.
Efforts by Semi Bird to lobby Michael Connors, president of the Kennewick School Board, into voting with board members Micah Valentine and Gabe Galbraith to defy the state's masking mandate, mirroring Richland's actions.
Deleting those messages could be a violation of state law. Judges have interpreted state law to include records produced on personal cellphones and devices when they're being used to do the work of public governance.
Byrd also had been called on the carpet by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal for using her public school district email account to leverage what he deemed a political attack. Reykdal said he felt the statement against him was a violation of ethics.
On Feburary 16, 2023, Director Byrd wrote the following in an email to Superintendent Dr. Redinger, Director Williams, and the Head of Human Resources for RSD, Tim Praino: "Since there is apparently a misunderstanding, let me make it very clear that if I hear of a single staff member passing around a political petition on school grounds or wearing a political button on school grounds, I will file a formal complaint and ask for that staff member to be immediately fired for violating district policy."
Not all of these charges were approved to proceed beyond the review by Judge Norma Rodriguez or the Washington State Supreme Court. In the interest of making background information available for the public to review, the following is a list of the charges presented in the original recall petition filed April 11, 2022.
Violation of RCW 42.30, Open Public Meetings Act - Participated in a special meeting, held a vote not included on the agenda, and took final action of making masks optional in Richland Schools effective immediately. Semi Bird, Audra Byrd, and Kari Williams held additional non-public meetings among themselves prior to February 15, 2022, to plan for taking the final action, and further communicated their intentions to members of the public.
Violation of RCW 42.30.080(3) and blatant disregard for the guidance given to Washington State School Boards by Washington State School Directors' Association -
Held a vote and took the final action of making masks optional in Richland Schools effective immediately despite the fact that such a vote was not included on the agenda.
Violation of 20-05 Governor's Proclamation of State of Emergency and 20-03.7 order of the Secretary of Health - despite guidance provided in an email from Washington State Superintendent of Public Schools Chris Reykdal, saying "Until the statewide mask mandate is eliminated, it continues to be a willful violation of the law to enact board policy or explicit practices that remove masking or allow for noncompliance within your buildings... we have moral and legal obligations to follow the law."
Violation of RCW 28A.150.230. - Voting to make masks optional in Richland Schools effective immediately was a vote that exceeded the powers as a school board.
Violation of RSD Code of Ethics Item 2 - 2. Uphold and enforce all laws, State Board rules and regulations and court orders pertaining to schools (desired changes should be brought about only through legal and ethical procedures).
Violation of RSD Code of Ethics Item 7 - 7. Recognize that his/her responsibility is not to run the school, but together with fellow board members, to see that they are well run.
Violation of RSD Code of Ethics Item 8 - 8. Confine his/her board action to policy making, planning and apprising, and help to frame policies and plans only after the board has consulted those who will be affected by them.
Violation of RSD Code of Ethics Item 14 - 14. Support and protect school personnel in proper performance of their duties.
Violation of RSD Policies and Procedures, "Powers & Duties of the Board" Item 3 - 3. Operations Assessment: Generally overseeing district operations and taking such actions as are necessary to assure compliance with law and district policy, as well as the development of the educational program.