School trustee focus of recall effort

Los Banos petition aims for November

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comApril 29, 2013 

The Merced County Elections Department has approved the circulation of a petition to recall Los Banos Unified School District Trustee Dennis Areias.

A group of 10 residents decided to start the recall drive in response to the reassignment of former Los Banos High School Principal Dan Martin.

Assistant Registrar of Voters Stacey Cotter said the recall petition was approved April 16 and mailed to its proponents for circulation April 19. She said the group will have until Aug. 14 to collect 2,915 signatures. She said the time frame will make it difficult to get the recall on the November ballot.

"If they submit on Aug. 14 it will not make the November election and there will have to be a special election," Cotter said.

The recall likely will cost $40,000 to $50,000. Those taxpayer dollars are used for printing costs, staff time, mailing expenses and other items related to elections. Cotter said a special election would be the more expensive option.

The petition states that Areias should be recalled because "He's shown a serious lack of sound judgment, including the reassignment of a competent and successful high school principal."

It also refers to Areias as having "disregard for public input" and having directed "caustic and derisive statements at teachers and students during open forum sessions at school board meetings."

Areias filed a response to the allegations that is included in the recall petition. In it, he states: "The issue at hand is the vote five board members made to reassign one administrator. It became clear to me after over three years of trying to resolve issues with this individual that the best direction was to make the difficult decision to make a change, and that is what I voted for. I stand by my decision."

On Aug. 9, Areias was part of a 5-2 vote to reassign Martin to administrator of special projects after Superintendent Steve Tietjen said he had lost confidence in Martin's ability to perform his job.

Areias and board president Chase Hurley are the only two school board members left in office who voted for Martin's reassignment.

At the Aug. 9 school board meeting, Areias told Martin supporters that he would make a decision and that they could call him to discuss it or vote him out of office if they did not like it.

Areias, 56, has been on the school board since 1997.

None of the recall proponents responded to requests for comment for this article. Proponents of the recall are Ealtha Davis, Jerry Davis, Gerald R. O'Brien, Arlene M. O'Brien, Raymond Razo, Fredrick Todd, Diana Todd, Daryl Van Dyke, Diane Van Dyke and Denise Robinson.

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