ONTONAGON - The former superintendent of Ontonagon Area Schools has filed a petition with Ontonagon County to recall a member of the school board due to improper conduct.
Larry Ford filed the papers requesting a recall of board member Charles Yost to appear on the election ballot, and at 3 p.m. Monday, a clarity meeting will be held at the Ontonagon County Courthouse to discuss the language of the petition.
Ford said he filed the petition July 17 because he feels there are strong injustices in play. After observing interactions between Yost and Superintendent Gray Webber, and also actions taken against board member Bruce Johanson and teacher Ken Raisanen, Ford said the recall was the next appropriate step to take.
Earlier this month, Yost moved at a school board meeting to censure Johanson, alleging Johanson shared information from a closed meeting with the public. The censure was denied.
Raisanen has been with the district for 36 years and was one of a handful of teachers laid off at the end of the 2011-12 school year. Ford, who was superintendent in the mid-1990s, said he found no flaw with Raisanen's teaching ability.
"I find the man to be a dedicated teacher that's given the majority of his life to the children of Ontonagon," he said. "... I find Mr. Raisanen has done nothing to deserve what has happened to him and I believe that Mr. Raisanen could be written into the schedule."
Ford said he is concerned about bullying between the parties involved, including actions toward Raisanen and Johanson, the latter who was called out in a negative manner publicly by Yost's wife during a meeting earlier in the school year.
"I was present at the meeting where Mrs. Yost read a letter," he said. "... The speech was attacking the board member and praising the superintendent. It had nothing to do with an agenda item."
Ford said it appears Webber and Yost have a business relationship as well through Webber's construction company, therefore Yost should abstain from school board matters concerning Webber.
"As a taxpayer and concerned citizen, I'm concerned with Mr. Yost compromising the role that he plays representing the community," he said. "He seems to be representing Mr. Webber's interest instead of that of the community. I feel that's a violation of the public trust."
While it's legal to praise the superintendent and go against those to disagree with Webber, Ford said Yost may not be acting in the best interest for the district or community.
"However, when the end result of those statements and actions is the improper layoff of a very fine Ontonagon teacher, and public false accusations against a fellow board member at board meetings, then it is my opinion board member Yost's official voting behavior and public statements have risen to the level of having the appearance of impropriety and the appearance of having a potential conflict of interest, to the detriment of the electorate of the school district," Ford wrote in a letter to the editor in the Ontonagon?Herald.
Ford said he does not have a grudge against Yost, and very much likes Raisanen, Johanson and Webber, but he would like to see the bullying come to an end.
"Before Gray even applied for the position, I wrote letters to the editor on why he would be a good superintendent," he said. "... I was an advocate for him."
At the meeting earlier this month, Yost was the only member of the board who voted in favor of censuring Johanson. During the meeting, Johanson maintained his innocence, and Ford, who had written a letter to the editor which appeared in the local newspaper days before, said he heard the information from someone else.
"I did not hear information from Mr. Johanson," Ford said. "I heard it on the street."
If the language is approved for the petition, Ford hopes to collect names on Ontonagon residents interested in signing the recall before it is to appear on the ballot. Because of his age and ability, Ford asks those wanting to sign contact him at 884-2000 and he will match names to the voting list, verify them and approach them for a signature.
"I don't wish to impose on people and be intrusive," he said. "I want those who want to sign to contact me."
Ford has 90 days to collect signatures after the language has been approved.