GLADSTONE - Residents of Gladstone may be surprised at the polls on Nov. 6 to find that there are no candidates for the open school board position.
The board will be losing current board President Jeff Deacon, who has chosen not to run for another term.
While current Gladstone School Board policies still say that elections are held in May, a bill passed by the state last November made all school board elections on even-numbered years part of the general election ballot.
While the change was officially made by Public Acts 232 and 233 of 2011, the Gladstone School Board was already interested in moving to November elections.
"About two years ago Jay [Kulbertis] suggested the board vote to move the elections to the fall cycle," said Deacon.
"The drive was in the best financial interests of the district. Some spring elections, the school district bore the entire election cost," he continued.
Those who wished to have their names on this year's ballot needed to file paperwork by Aug. 14, the 12th Tuesday before the election. No eligible candidates completed the process.
Eligible candidates for a school board position must be at least 18 years of age, a citizen of the United States, and a resident of the state of Michigan for at least 30 days. Candidates also must be a resident of the school district on or before the 30th day prior to the date of the election and registered to vote in that school district.
One write in candidate, Steve Tackman, has filed a write-in candidate declaration of intent form with the county clerk's office. Other interested candidates must file the form - which allows votes for a write in candidate to be counted - before 4 p.m. Friday.
If an eligible write-in candidate does not win the election, the board will appoint a new member.
"It's important to note that there is no legal requirement that boards post notice of vacancies or even interview candidates; the process should be based on the particular board's bylaws," said Eric Griggs, labor relations and school law attorney for the Michigan Association of School Boards.
"Under the law, the board simply needs to pass a motion to appoint an individual at a meeting open to the public within 30 days of a seat becoming vacant," Griggs added.
According to the portion of the school board's bylaws dealing with board vacancies, which has not been updated since 2005, the board will seek qualified candidates by posting the opening in the news media, contacting organizations, and making the opening known through word of mouth.
Interested candidates must then submit a notice of interest in writing to the superintendent, and the board may interview candidates to evaluate their qualifications.
Board member Steve O'Driscoll does not plan to create another open spot on the board by vacating his position if he is elected as a Delta County Commissioner for District 2. He is running against incumbent Ryan Holm (Democrat) for the position.
"I do not plan on vacating the school board position as it is something that I still feel very passionate about. I would step aside in my role as the representative from the board to the Public Library Advisory Committee, as that is the one place where school board business and county business overlap," said O'Driscoll.
According to O'Driscoll, there is no legal reason for him to vacate the school board position.
"Other than that small overlap, the two operate very independent of each other and the county clerk has assured my that there is no requirement to step down from one or the other," he said, adding he would need to investigate whether his position on the Gladstone Economic Development Corporation board of directors would be a conflict of interest.
The Michigan Attorney General has ruled that a "breach of duty" occurs when a person cannot promote the interests of two offices simultaneously. A public official cannot avoid any incompatibility between by abstaining from the actions of an office - such as voting - because doing so would be a breach of duty.
Any official who cannot hold two offices because they are incompatible must vacate one of the offices.