There are six weeks left for those attempting to recall three members of the Hesperia Unified School District school board to collect nearly 7,000 signatures for each of the targeted board members. But at Monday night's school board meeting, it was the wife of one of the board members who was in the crosshairs.


"I feel like I've let our community down," recall spokeswoman Lori Nielson said, during the public comment portion of the meeting. "The employees don't want to sign because of fear of retaliation, fear of losing their jobs."


Recall proponents have previously alleged district employees who might have signed one of the petitions to recall board members Hardy Black, Robert Kirk and Lee Rogers have been intimidated into not signing, but have not provided concrete examples, citing concerns over the employees' job security should their names be revealed.


But Nielson did name one alleged intimidator: Vicki Kirk, the wife of school board president Robert Kirk.


"I am not one to be intimidated," Nielson said. "For Mister Kirk's wife to come out and take pictures of people signing the petition, some people might see that as intimidation."


According to Chief Deputy Registrar Terry Kouba, the names of those signing the recall petitions are not public information.


"Once the petitions have been turned over to [the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters], nobody outside of our staff -- and I don't mean the county staff, I mean our office -- and it's a very small group, probably half a dozen people in this office, has access to these petitions," Kouba said. And if someone did manage to sneak a peak, "they would lose their job. ... It's a violation of law."


Vicki Kirk pulling out her cell phone and taking a picture was not meant as intimidation, she said.


"I was going to the grocery store, over at Staters, which is my home grocery store, and I noticed there were people collecting signatures, and this was the first time I had seen anyone out," Kirk said Wednesday. "Lo and behold, one of the people collecting signatures was Nellie Gogley."


Recall opponents have long maintained that the recall is sour grapes on the part of former board members like Nielson and Gogley.


"So, I took out my cell phone and took a picture," said Kirk, an HUSD employee herself. "There were no people signing at the tables, there was no one else around. I took no one else's pictures other than the people who were there soliciting for the signatures."


Kirk would not take the picture of anyone there to sign the petitions, she said.


"The idea that I was somehow intimidating these people is perplexing," Kirk said. "I think if you look up the definition of intimidating, that wasn't possible with what I was doing. If you look up the definition of documenting, that matches what I was doing."


Kirk's photo of Gogley has made its way online, appearing on conservative news site FlashReport.org, in a blog post by Matt Rexroad, a county supervisor from Yolo County, more than 400 miles north of Hesperia. Kirk says she did not send the image to Rexroad. Another photo, not taken by Kirk, of a person dressed like a clown at another signature-collecting event, also appears on the blog post.


 


Nielson's statement was not the only way the recall attempt came up during the meeting. Teacher Charles Roedell has become a fixture at board meetings, silently holding up a series of posters condemning the three targets of the attempted recall. Something was different at Monday's meeting, however: He was cordoned off in a corner in the back of the room, away from the door, similar to the protest areas created by the Secret Service during the presidency of George W. Bush, where protestors are grouped in a single area, well away from presidential appearances.


As for the recall itself, Nielson said after the meeting she didn't know how many signatures have been collected at this point.


"I'm not really sure -- we're in the process of counting right now," she said Tuesday. "We have some petitions out there that I don't have any control over, and I want them back."


To get the question of whether to recall Black, Kirk and Rogers on a special election ballot this summer, recall proponents must collect 6,919 signatures for each of the three board members, 20 percent of the 34,596 registered voters living in the HUSD.


That number is more than the number of votes cast in 2006 for Rogers, who received 5,946, and only 45 signatures fewer than votes were cast for Black. The signatures, if gathered, would amount to more than 85 percent of the votes cast for Robert Kirk, the top vote getter in the 2006 school board election, with 8,057 votes.


And it all has to be done in a matter of weeks: The completed petitions are due back to the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters on April 7.


"I'm very optimistic that we're going to get the signatures that we need," Nielson said.


"Robert was elected by a clear majority of voters in Hesperia. If those voters decided they no longer wanted him in office, we would abide by their decision," Kirk said. "It is their right to sign their petition."


The next meeting of the Hesperia Unified School District school board will be held on Monday, March 10, at 6 p.m. at 15576 Main Street.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.