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White Pine Board Chair resigns after tense public exchange

Education

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IDAHO FALLS — White Pine Charter School Board Chair Adam Frugoli abruptly resigned after a heated exchange with local parent and former school board candidate Amber Beck.

The exchange and resignation happened at a Monday board meeting and marked the latest in the school board’s ongoing effort to reorganize itself amid fallout from a botched May school board election plagued with allegations of electioneering.

Monday’s dispute culminated with Frugoli’s request to have local authorities remove Beck from the meeting, according to a recording obtained by EdNews.

Beck gave public testimony lambasting the board’s secretive approval of an investigation into the bungled May election. She also called repeatedly for Frugoli’s resignation.

RELATED: White Pine officials discuss electioneering allegations; acknowledge possible open meeting law violation

“You owe it to the board to do the right thing,” she said.

Frugoli told Beck she had exceeded the board’s 3-minute limit for input. Beck refused to end her comments.

“Ms. Beck, you are holding this board hostage,” Frugoli said, before attempting to adjourn the meeting and asking an administrator to call the sheriff.

“Don’t bother,” Beck fired back. “They won’t be here by the time I sit down.”

Beck ended her testimony, and the board resumed the meeting by swearing in three trustees elected last month in a followup to May’s ill-fated election. Beck had been a candidate in both elections.

Mark Duncanson, Emma Lee Robinson and Jim Seamans emerged as new board members in the latest election. The newly formed board selected Robinson as chair on Monday, a position Frugoli had held on an interim basis.

Following Robison’s appointment, Frugoli made his own announcement.

“I’m sorry Amber has so much resentment and anonmosity,” Frugoli said. “I’m going to give Ms. Beck her wish and make my resignation effective immediately.”

Beck told EdNews afterward that Frugoli’s resignation likely stemmed from Robinson’s appointment as board chair.

Frugoli, second vice chairman of the local Republican Party and a precinct committeeman, said his decision to resign stemmed from a plan to replace outgoing state Sen. Dean Mortimer, who announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection.

“It’s been in the workings,” Frugoli told EdNews, adding that he’ll make a decision about a potential Statehouse run in the coming days.

How’d we get here?

After the May election, the school launched an investigation into electioneering complaints against trustee Joanna Stark.

Attorney Doug Nelson found that Stark had made “strong statements of advocacy” for candidates Robinson and Beck. Yet those actions did not violate the state’s electioneering law, Nelson said. Stark denied any wrongdoing.

Nelson also found procedural problems with the May election, including no way to track who had voted. And some paper ballots were thrown away after milk was inadvertently spilled on them.

Nelson’s own investigation was plagued with problems. Trustees approved the investigation in executive session, committing to spend at least $10,877 in public funds and violating Idaho’s open meeting law in the process.

What’s next?

Citing concerns with its online security system, White Pine used only paper ballots in its followup election.

Trustees will soon begin a search for Frugoli’s replacement, said White Pine Principal Jeremy Clarke. Currently, the board includes:

  • Emma Lee Robinson, chair
  • Joni Larsen, vice chair
  • Jim Seamans, secretary
  • Mark Duncanson, treasurer
  • Joanna Stark
  • Ethan Huffman

White Pine’s enrollment increased by about 70 students this year. It now serves some 600 kindergarten through eighth-graders.

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