The Kiona-Benton City School Board wasted no time in filling the position recently vacated by board member Jill Renz-Whitman.
The board voted unanimously Monday night to appoint Leslie Johnson to Renz-Whitman's seat and Superintendent Rom Castilleja swore her into office during the meeting. Johnson is the sole candidate running for election to the position this November.
"I'm excited about getting started and maybe having some changes made," Johnson said after the meeting.
Board members briefly discussed making Johnson's appointment not effective until their next meeting because she wouldn't be prepared for Monday night's executive session. However, they eventually decided to have her take her seat immediately.
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"Let's get her in now and get her up to speed," board Chairman Tim Cook told the Herald.
Renz-Whitman, who was elected to the board in 2009, is barred from seeking re-election because she has moved out of the area of the district her seat represents. She didn't attend Monday's meeting, though the board accepted a resignation she'd already submitted.
School boards generally have 90 days to appoint a board member when there is a vacancy. If a board member leaves close enough to an election a board can also wait until voters elect someone to the seat.
Cook said he contacted the Benton County Auditor's office and spoke with elections officials about appointing Johnson to the position given her status as the sole candidate and the proximity of the election. The county confirmed the board could appoint Johnson in this circumstance.
Cook told the Herald he wanted Johnson on the board partly to prepare her for the job, but also to avoid any tie votes on what otherwise would be a four-member board.
Board member Dan Raap said he didn't have an issue with Johnson taking on the position ahead of the election. But he did want to make sure her appointment would be an exception to the usual process for filling seats.
Raap and board member Charles Gray also initially voiced support for holding off on Johnson taking her seat right away because she would not be familiar with the topics at Monday's closed executive session. They relented when Cook said he didn't expect the board to make any decisions in open session following those closed discussions.
Johnson and her husband, Chris Johnson, are from the Tri-Cities. They have four children, including a son still attending high school as a senior. Johnson has worked for more than nine years at the Umatilla Chemical Depot but is expected to leave that job in October.
Also Monday night
w The Ki-Be administrator accused of stealing district property and selling it online is no longer employed by the district.
The board did not renew Mark Noyes' contract when it expired at the end of August, Cook said. He had been on unpaid administrative leave since mid-June.
Noyes is charged with first-degree trafficking in stolen property and has a trial set for October. He has pleaded innocent.
Benton County sheriff's detectives began investigating Noyes after board member Wayne Elston went to them with evidence he'd sold district property on the online auction site eBay.
Investigators said they have linked Noyes to an account on the site that sold a camera and temperature control consoles reported missing from the district.
w Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver