Recall attempt against 3 School Board members fails after deadline missed

Effort now uncertain as organizers regroup

Recall campaign spokesperson Robert Aguilar Jr. speaks during the Sept. 28, 2021 meeting of the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education where notices of intention to start a recall effort were given to three trustees. The attempt was ended by local election officials after the campaign missed a filing deadline. Photo by Jeannette Andruss

An attempt to recall three Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education members has been rejected for missing a key deadline as recall organizers must now restart if they want to move forward.

Organizers missed the deadline to file paperwork seeking authorization to collect the thousands of signatures needed to get a recall on the ballot against trustees Megan Cutuli, Chris Forehan and Scott Fayette.

The campaign had until Friday, Dec. 17 to turn in the fourth draft of the recall petitions to the Orange County Registrar of Voters’ office.

In an email last week, the office confirmed it did not receive the petitions in time and said that proponents would need to “restart the process once again in order to proceed with a recall effort.”

The recall effort was publicly launched at the Sept. 28 board meeting when the three trustees were given notices of intention to start the process.

The recall campaign cited the board’s enforcement of California’s Covid-19 safety mandates for schools and the adoption of an ethnic studies elective at Los Alamitos High School among the reasons for the effort.

Both topics sparked passionate public comments from supporters and opponents at school board meetings during 2021.


Board Members React

Word of the missed deadline came out a few days before the Christmas holiday.

“Santa came early,” reads a Dec. 23 post on the personal Instagram account of Board Vice President Forehan. It includes a picture of a letter from the Registrar of Voters’ office (ROV) informing him that “no further action on this recall effort can be done.”

“Throughout the ugly process I maintained my focus and energy on doing what’s right for our kids, staff and community. Yahoo!!,” the post reads.

In an email, Forehan, who is known for making frequent visits to the district’s nine campuses, said he will “continue to support our students, staff and community on what I believe is best for a healthy and successful school year.” Forehan represents Trustee Area 2.

“I was very happy to hear that the recall group did not get their petition approved by the Registrar of Voters. It means that the board can now focus on supporting our students and staff without distractions,” board member Cutuli wrote in part of an emailed statement to Spotlight Schools. Cutuli represents Trustee Area 5 which covers parts of Seal Beach.

She also thanked supporters who reached out to her and the other board members. While she’s looking forward to 2022 being a year of “healing and support,” she noted that the recall group could launch a new effort at any time.

“They only need 10 signatures to start the process.  It would be wonderful if nothing more happens, but I don’t know their plans or thinking,” she wrote.

Trustee Area 4 representative Scott Fayette said he did not have a comment at this time.

Board President Diana Hill said she is looking to the future.

“I am appreciative that the board can move forward and do the work of the district without any distractions or any cost to the district,” Hill said in a phone interview.


Recall Supporters Reorganizing

Meanwhile, the recall campaign appears to be reorganizing.

“The decision has been made to place the recall on hold. This is NOT a win for either side of the argument,” reads the home page of the pro-recall website.

The website does not mention anything about missing the filing deadline or specify what’s next but does say: “This is not the end of the fight” and encourages people to “keep speaking up.”

A phone call and text message seeking comment from recall campaign spokesperson Robert Aguilar Jr. were not returned.

“I supported the recall and am disappointed it is not moving forward at this time,” Los Al USD parent Matthew Simmons wrote in a recent email. “The recall effort was a wake-up call to parents as to what is being taught in the classroom,” he added.

Simmons has spoken at many recent board meetings in opposition to the state’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate for students and protested against what he says is the teaching of critical race theory in the district, a claim the district has repeatedly said is not the case.

An opponent of the recall effort had a different reaction.

“I’m glad they couldn’t even start collecting signatures. It kept taxpayer money with the students,” Olaina Anderson, a parent in the district who supported an organized recall opposition effort, wrote in an email.

The Registrar of Voters’ office estimated the cost for the recall elections would range between $52,853 and $192,948 plus the cost of $3.40 per signature for verification.

The bill would have gone to the school district.

“A regular election is free and the best way to replace elected officials. That’s how democracy works,” she added. Anderson ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 2018.

Cutuli, Forehan, and Fayette are up for re-election in 2024.

Recall backer Simmons wrote that he thinks people will stay involved. “I believe parents will be more vocal than ever to ensure our school board listens to the parents and protects our children.”

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Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from the version that ran in the print edition to include comments from school board members and to identify the specific trustee areas they represent.