As conservative group Fight for Schools edges closer to its signature collecting goal to recall six Loudoun School Board members, an effort by activists in neighboring Fairfax County reached its community support threshold, as The Open FCPS Coalition submitted its first recall petition to a circuit court last Monday.
The fate of Fairfax County School Board member Elaine Tholen (Dranesville) will depend on whether a judge will review the 5,000-signature petition, and advance the case to a trial to possibly remove Tholen from office. There, signatures were collected by the Open Schools Coalition.
In Loudoun, Fight for Schools reported on Monday having 97 percent of signatures needed to file a petition to remove Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge). The group did not provide an update on the petition to remove Beth Barts (Leesburg); two weeks ago the group reported collecting 93 percent of needed signatures.
While the Fairfax recall effort was spurred by the School Board’s handling of opening schools during the pandemic, the Loudoun effort began as a response to School Board members’ membership in private Facebook groups where parents opposed to Critical Race Theory in schools were identified.
At a press conference in June, Ian Prior, executive director of Fight for Schools, said the group’s attention would focus on collecting signatures to remove Barts, dubbing it “Operation Finish the Job.”
Barts has been a main target of Fight for Schools. Ahead of the June 22 School Board meeting, the group drove a billboard bus around a large crowd calling for her removal. Volunteers have been door-knocking throughout Leesburg in hopes of drumming up support.
A petition to remove an elected official must have signatures equal to 10% of the number of votes cast in the last election for that office, from voters living in that officer’s jurisdiction. Once a petition reaches that threshold, it is submitted to the Circuit Court. At that point, the petitioners are no longer involved in the case; they do not present evidence or testify against the official, although Fight for Schools may attempt to submit evidence for review. The Commonwealth’s Attorney may launch an investigation into the official’s actions or alleged wrongdoing, and then decide whether to prosecute the case.
The most recent attempt to remove a Loudoun elected official was the 2014 effort to recall then-Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio over his alleged misuse of county resources. In that case, local judges and the Loudoun commonwealth’s attorney recused themselves. The case was assigned to the Arlington County commonwealth’s attorney who impaneled a special grand jury, which ultimately did not issue indictments in the case.
Charlie King, the attorney who represented Delgaudio and is representing Barts, thinks the same thing will happen this time around if Fight for Schools files a petition.
“If Ian Prior wants to give the Commonwealth’s Attorney and myself subpoena power over God and everybody, two months before an election, I say ‘go ahead’,” King said of the potential filing of a petition.
Aside from petitions for Serotkin and Barts, the petition to remove Denise Corbo (At-Large) is furthest along, with a reported 76 percent of required signatures.