Austin Veralrud of Audubon was appointed to fill the vacancy left by the June 28 resignation of board member Sky Bjerke of rural Lake Park, who was in the third year of his first term (four years), who ends next year.
His resignation came at a delicate point in the electoral cycle and left the school district in a difficult situation, in which it could not follow state law no matter what.
“She resigned just before July 1,” LP-A superintendent Tim Godfrey explained in an interview. Bjerke could not be reached for comment.
According to state law, he said, if a board member resigns before July 1, there needs to be a special election to replace her, which will be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. That would have required a special election this year on November 2.
However, if the vacancy occurs less than 90 days before polling day, the appointed member may sit until polling day of the following year.
So if the resignation had come after July 1 (coincidentally, the day Superintendent Godfrey started working at LP-A), the school board could have appointed someone to fulfill Bjerke’s tenure.
In school districts like Lake Park-Audubon, which do not have primary elections, candidates must apply for a two-week period that begins 98 days before the election.
And two weeks before the depot opens (or 112 days before the election), the district must issue a public notice informing candidates that the depot will be opened in two weeks.
This means that the district clerk should have published the public notice by July 13.
This did not happen, due to “the unexpected nature of the member’s resignation on the evening of June 28”, the LP-A Clerk was unable to prepare and file the public notice in time for meet the deadline of July 13. , according to a court ruling by Becker County District Court Judge Gretchen Thilmony.
Due to the timing of the resignation, the judge wrote, LP-A could not meet the legal requirements to hold a special election on November 2 this year, and also the requirement to publish a public notice 112 days before the ‘election.
“Due to the inability to comply with both requirements,” Thilmony wrote, the school district sought assistance from the district court.
“We went to court for redress, with a few options,” Godfrey said. The school district’s preferred option was the legal authority to appoint a replacement member for the remainder of the term, without the need for a special election.
This option was granted in an order from Thilmony on September 10.
Veralrud was one of two people who went through the application process for the vacant board seat. The other person gave up before the process was complete, Godfrey said. Veralrud will not get rich at the school board, since members do not receive any salary and do not receive any benefits, other than a stipend of $ 100 per meeting.
But Godfrey is grateful for the court order, which will give Veralrud time to decide whether he wants to run for the seat next year, and give residents of the district a chance to get to know him better.
And Godfrey urged residents of the district to come out and vote in a referendum on improvements to the space needs at the crowded Audubon Primary School. Early voting has already started on the November 2 referendum.
As a military veteran, Godfrey said he was very attached to people exercising their right to vote.
“We are a country founded on individual freedoms, one of which is the right of the voters,” he said. “No matter how you feel (about the referendum), get out there and vote.”