Tom Seigel, superintendent at Bethel School District, gave me a call this morning to correct what he thinks are some misperceptions that he is meddling in a school board race. Seigel was responding to a post I did earlier this week about school board candidate Marianne Lincoln’s difficulties with the Pierce County auditor’s office.
Seigel says he became involved in the mess because Lincoln asked him for a map of her director district. He drove out to the address listed on her candidate filing to deliver the information. No one was home at the time, so he left the information. Later, Lincoln’s sister, who lives at that address, called Seigel’s office to report that Lincoln had moved out.
“At that point, I called (Auditor) Jan Shabro and told her, ‘We have a situation here, a potential fraud.” Lincoln ended up withdrawing and then refiled with a different address, which Seigel said is a vacant lot. He again contacted Shabro to let her know what he found. (Lincoln has since switched her registration again to a place she is leasing in the district).
Seigel took exception to my description of his “curious interest” in this case. “I have a legal responsibility and an ethical obligation to report when a crime or fraud is being committed,” he said, mentioning the mandatory reporting requirements the district has in cases of suspected child abuse.
What Seigel didn’t know was that the rules for political candidates are much looser than the residency requirements for students who attend Bethel schools. Lincoln, according to information I received from the Secretary of State’s office, was well within her rights to file for office with the address she listed.
Seigel says he is surprised by the latitude allowed candidates. “I guess I could run for mayor of Seattle and all I would have to do is register at a vacant lot up there.”
As for the changes to school board policies that amended “qualified voter” to “qualified voter resident,” Seigel said they had nothing to do with the Lincoln case but were prompted by a request from school board member Ken Blair to adopt suggested language from the Washington State School Directors Association. I checked with WSSDA, and it indeed has model language that includes “qualified voter resident.”
Seigel says he did ask the district’s attorney what the district should do in the event Lincoln is elected, and the attorney indicated the district would seat her. He said he has no axe to grind. “Whoever shows up on the board, I deal with them. There are no nefarious intentions here.”
Seigel has some experience dealing with rock-the-boat types. Blair is currently suing the school board for stripping him of his board vice presidency in 2007 after Blair criticized the superintendent in an interview with The News Tribune. Blair’s appeal is being heard before Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges in Seattle today.