Petition removes new school trustee

RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe School District’s next board member to fill Marti Ritto’s seat will be determined following a special election on April 24. Ritto resigned on Sept. 13.

Five applicants were interviewed on Oct. 16. Seven days later, the Rancho Santa Fe School District unanimously named attorney Jon Yonemitsu in a provisional appointment. According to Superintendent David Jaffe, the appointment process that took place in October was authorized by the Education Code.

Yonemitsu was recalled on Dec. 15 following a school petition which was declared valid by the county superintendent forcing a special election. Now with Yonemitsu leaving a vacant seat, the school board will continue to operate with four trustees until after the April election, which will be done as mail-in ballot collection to help reduce costs.

Whoever is voted in will serve a term from May to November 2018 as Ritto’s original seat will reopen during November’s general election.

“All five of those people who applied were outstanding candidates and would have served in that capacity really well,” Jaffe said. He added that the person who is seated in May will go through the voting process again six months later, three of which are summer, in a normal election.

“So, as a school district, we will spend upwards of $40,000 to $80,000 to elect someone into the position when we had five candidates already,” he said. 

Jaffe said a full election with a regular analytical voting booth could cost closer to $100,000 or more, which is why they chose a mail-in ballot collection.

Jaffe said that to date, however, the full costs of the April special election are yet to be determined.

In the same breath, Jaffe said that the parties had every right to petition.

“Still, it’s really unfortunate,” Jaffe said. “They claimed that the appointment was a way to get like-minded people on the board — and it was a claim that would have circumvented the voting process, which I don’t agree with.”

Jaffe said that the five candidates who stepped forward in the provisional appointment were all outstanding.

Yonemitsu isn’t the only person with a provisional appointment to the school board. In 2016, Scott Kahn was voted in under a provisional appointment and officially elected in last November’s general election. Also appointed in the same manner was Tyler Seltzer, who has been re-elected for two terms. 

According to Jaffe, there were two school petitions from private citizens that were filed in November calling for a special election. The petitions were presented to the San Diego County superintendent of schools.

The first petition was rejected on a formatting technicality.

“It was the second petition that was approved,” Jaffe said. 

Following Yonemitsu’s recall on Dec. 15, Jaffe issued a letter that same day to parents and guardians regarding the upcoming special election to fill the vacancy on the Rancho Santa Fe School District governing board.

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