PAPILLION — A small group of Papillion residents have begun to gather signatures in an effort to oust Papillion La Vista Community Schools board member Valerie Fisher.
On Thursday, Nov. 18, the Sarpy County Election Commission made petitions available that could trigger a recall election for Fisher. Loan Eby, a resident of Papillion who requested the petitions, received them on Friday, Nov. 19.
Eby has 30 calendar days from Nov. 19 to Dec. 20 to collect 7,229 signatures from valid, registered Papillion and La Vista voters.
By state statute, 7,229 is 35% of the total vote garnered by the candidate with the highest number of votes in the previous school board election. That candidate happened to be Fisher, who earned 20,653 in 2020.
Fisher has served multiple terms as president of the PLCS Board of Education, as well as other positions within the board. She has served nearly 22 years with three superintendents. Fisher was the 2019 Ann Mactier School Board Member of the Year, awarded by the Nebraska Association of School Boards (NASB) and the Nebraska State Board of Education.
“As an elected board member, you don’t get re-elected without doing a good job,” Fisher said.
Should Eby collect enough signatures to force Fisher’s recall election, the cost of the special election will be borne by the public schools.
Eby initially sought to recall four of the six PLCS board members, all officers. Those members — Board President Brian Lodes, Vice President SuAnn Witt and Treasurer Dr. Fred Tafoya — are up for reelection next year and are not eligible for recall, only the recently elected Fisher. Fisher currently serves as board secretary.
As part of a group calling themselves the “Papillion Patriots,” Eby has spent much of the last six months agitating for the firing of PLCS Superintendent Andrew Rikli for a host of perceived infractions culminating with the district’s mandating mask usage against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Eby would not give an interview to the Papillion Times. In an 800-word statement she read to the PLCS board at its Monday, Nov. 22 meeting, Eby wrote about “a list of policies, statutes, and laws Dr. Rikli, the PLCS Administration and the Board of Education may be in violation of.”
In essence, Eby and her group are trying to remove Rikli, and blame the board — and Fisher — for not taking “corrective action.”
Though Lodes cut off Eby’s microphone for going past her three minute speaking allotment, her statement concludes:
“Dr. Rikli and the PLCS administration are breaking laws, violating policies, violating civil rights, allowing the use of schools for medical treatments with impunity. The Board of Education is failing in their duties as elected officials. Our district is broken. But we can fix this! If we all band together and work together, we can fix our school district.”
Fisher said she would not address the allegations.
“I want people to look at all the facts, look at my entire career, and make a determination,” Fisher said.
She said her parents instilled in her a sense of civic responsibility, and she started by being a steward of proper classroom sizes.
“It’s about making sure our students have the educational opportunities they deserve. For me, this is what my service has been about,” Fisher said.
There have been no effective recall petitions in Sarpy County since at least 2008, not to anyone’s memory in the Sarpy County Election Office. The last two attempts occurred in Bellevue in 2017 and 2019 for city council seats.
The Sarpy County Election Commission said in a statement it is working closely with the Sarpy County Attorney’s Office and Nebraska Secretary of State to ensure all actions fall within the bounds of state election law.
If at least 7,229 signatures are gathered and delivered in time, the Sarpy Election Commissioner has 15 business days to determine whether there are a sufficient number of signatures and if they are genuine. If so, a recall election can proceed and the election commissioner will notify both Fisher and PLCS.