BEAUMONT - By Megan Dillard - If you ask an attorney for the Beaumont school district how many board seats should be up for election in May, the answer is three.
Ask another attorney, one who represents people who want to serve on the board, and the answer is all seven seats.
KFDM is covering the story and trying to get to the heart of the vast difference of opinion.
It's an issue, like many in BISD, that could end up in court.
In the meantime, the district is moving ahead with plans for the May 11 election.
This morning candidates picked numbers from a bucket to determine where their name will be placed on the ballot.
According to BISD, three seats are up for election: District 4 - Gwen Ambres; District 6 - Tom Neild; and District 7 - Janice Brassard. Hers is the only contested seat.
Business owner Joey Hilliard is running against her. Hilliard's name will appear first on the ballot.
Even though three seats are up for election, Beaumont attorney Mike Getz claims all seven seats should be a part of the May elections.
Getz says according to the Texas Education Code, "after each redistricting all positions on the board shall be filled."
Voters approved changing from seven single-member districts to five single-member and two at-large seats.
The school district attorney says the Justice Department rejected the plan because it would dilute minority voting strength.
So BISD is going ahead with plans for three seats on the ballot. Only one is contested.
However, four other candidates filed for places on the ballot representing the other seats.
Attorney Getz believes Texas law is clear; that all seven positions open up in May after redistricting.
The district is not recognizing that opinion.
BISD attorney Melody Chappell says it's time to move ahead with an election and focus on what matters: educating students.
"It just causes confusion for the district. It adds to attorney's fees. It adds to getting back to educating the kids. I will assist the district with the Secretary of State's office and the Department of Justice to assist the district in getting past this."
Chappell says the Texas Secretary of State verified to her that the district followed all legal steps necessary to hold an election with voters deciding three seats,not seven.
Getz says he will move forward with legal action.
BEAUMONT - An attorney says he might file legal action against the Beaumont school district because he claims the district is violating the law over the upcoming trustee elections, a claim the district is strongly denying.
KFDM reporter Megan Dillard will have more on the story on KFDM News at 6.
Click here to view a letter attorney Michael Getz sent to BISD.
Michael Getz claims redistricting requires BISD to hold elections for all seven trustee seats in May, not the three seats the district says are up for election.
Monday morning candidates for three trustee seats drew straws for positions on the May 11 ballot.
Gwen Ambres in District 4 and Tom Neild Sr. in District 6 are unopposed. In District 7, Janice Brassard faces a challenge from Joseph Kyle Hilliard.
Getz contends all seven seats are open. Donna Forgas filed for District 1, Marcelino Rodriguez in District 2, Linda Gilmore in District 3 and Danny Major in District 5.
Attorney Melody Chappell represents BISD and says the district isn't under any legal obligation to open all seven seats for election.
Response from BISD attorney Melody Chappell
"That's not the case. We redistricted on a 7-0 because of a population change. Under the Education Code, we were required to do so. So the section that they're referencing doesn't apply to what we're doing."
"The bottom line is that the Department of Justice says a 5-2 can't be put in place. We've not sought to change the scheme. We're moving forward with a 7-0. There are only 3 districts that are up for reelection. Right now, only one of those are opposed."
"There's not a provision where everybody runs for school board because the law requires that we keep it as close to one-half running every bi-annual year as possible, and that's what we've done."
"The section they're referencing does not apply. It applies when, if for one reason, if the school board decided it wanted to change its trustees from a 7-0 to a 5-2, 4-3, something other than what they currently had. Secondly, if the voters voted in a change, such as a 5-2, the 5-2 that was put into place. Then you look at that section H. But it does not apply in this instance. We're redistricting because of the change in population as required by the election code."
"I believe that that 5-2 change would not apply for the school district because we're at a 7-0 anyway. We would have of course looked at that, but that's not the case."
"It's not good for the kids and the district. I'm here to help the district so that they can focus on educating the kids and that I can deal with this 5-2 issue."
"I think the board has shown good faith in that they've gone on with a 7-0. They've called in an alternate. They've not taken any vote to get rid of the 5-2 plan. They've not taken any action against the 5-2 plan. We're waiting on the attorney general to give us advice on whether it's valid, but in the meantime, the board of trustees has said look, let's focus on getting something in place for May and also getting back to educating the kids in BISD."
Response from attorney Mike Getz
"Section 11.052 (h) does not distinguish re-districting as Melody seems to imply. It says after EVERY re-districting. Where is the legal authority or case precedent for her interpretation? It does not exist. The staute says what it says."
"The fact that the DOJ did not pre-clear the 5-2 plan played a role. It required BISD to re-district a second time, that being by board resolution adopted February 21, 2013. As for waiting until March 1, 2013 to file, we were assessing the situation and trying to determine what would be the best course to follow and that is what we decided to do."