The Newton USD 373 Board of Education took a unique action Monday night — passing a resolution that ratified the appointment of Allan Jantz to the board. Jantz was appointed to the board in 2017 to fulfill a vacancy left by Tim Hodge, who left to become a state representative.
The resolution Monday also ratified all the "acts" — votes — of Jantz from his nearly two years of service.
This was done because of a procedural error when Jantz was appointed. State statute requires — or suggests, according to the Supreme Court — that the board wait 15 days after legal notice of the vacancy before making an appointment. In this case, the board published the notice in the Newton Kansan on Sept. 16, 2017. They made the appointment on Sept. 25, 2017.
"The BOE inadvertently waited only nine days and did not wait 15 days before appointing Allen Jantz," said John Robb, legal counsel for the school district. "I do not think this had any effect on the validity of Mr. Jantz’s appointment to the BOE. The Supreme Court has held that time requirements in statutes like these are only directory and not mandatory."
Robb cited a 1973 Kansas Supreme Court case in which the court wrote “where the provision fixes a mode of proceeding and a time within which an official act is to be done, and is intended to secure order, system and dispatch of the public business, the provision is directory" in its finding.
Monday's resolution, according to Robb, cleaned up the mess made during the appointment without requiring a legal challenge or court case.
"To remove any doubt over this issue the BOE could have gone to court to seek a declaratory judgment that the appointment and all actions were valid," Robb said. "Rather than take this route, and to avoid this expense, the BOE, on Monday night, passed a resolution ratifying and confirming Mr. Jantz’s appointment and all of the BOE acts in which he participated as of the dates of the original acts."
Monday's action may have been triggered by an anonymous letter sent to each member of the board of education, Robb, the Harvey County Clerk and members of the media containing copies of the legal notice, a board meeting agenda from 2017, board minutes from 2017 and a printout of the 2016 statute dated Sept. 7, 2017.
When the appointment was made there was an active election — six candidates were seeking three positions on the board. There was a discussion of appointing the fourth-place finisher in that election to the board. However, before vacating his position on the board, Hodge spoke with Jantz — who once served two terms on the board of education, from 1995 to 2003 — about filling his open position. Board member Carol Sue Stayrook Hobbs also spoke with Jantz and put his name forward as a possible appointee. The board voted 4-1 in favor of placing Jantz on the board.
Jantz is currently seeking re-election to the board in this fall's election.