School board: Let candidate lawsuit proceed

By  | 

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) -- Leave it to the courts.

That's what the Rapid City school board voted to do Wednesday morning after discussing whether to settle a lawsuit brought by a candidate who was tossed off the ballot.

Candidate Lafawn Janis filed a petition to run for the Area 3 seat on the Rapid City Area School Board of Education. Her petition was challenged on the grounds it was incomplete.

After consulting with lawyers and the secretary of state's office, Business Manager David Janak removed Janis from the race. Janis the challenged her opponent's petitions on the same grounds but Janak ruled that candidate Brian Johnson's petitions were valid.

Janis filed suit in Rapid City's federal court claiming her civil rights were violated and that her case and her opponent's case were not handled equally. On Tuesday the lawyers for Janis and the school district sent a letter to Judge Karen Schreier asking that she "not rule on this case at least until tomorrow (Wednesday) at noon. The reason is because we are trying to settle this case," they wrote.

Wednesday morning the school board discussed that possibility but voted 6-1 to let the lawsuit continue.

Board President Ron Riherd voted to settle the suit.

"I thought we had a chance to make sure that we had two people on the ballot in Area 3," he said. "I think that's one of the goals of the board, to make sure we have candidates that are voted and elected by the public."

Janis was not present at Wednesday's meeting and her attorney declined to comment. Candidate Johnson said he felt the school board was "very fair" and that he "looked forward to the judge's decision."

Now all eyes are on Judge Schreier. Janis has asked her to rule before the end of the month as the Pennington County Auditor says that is the deadline for printing the official ballots for the June 4 election.

Previous story

The Rapid City Area Schools Board of Education has called a special meeting for Wednesday at 7 a.m.

The single item on the agenda?

The lawsuit brought by a candidate for the board whose petition was denied by the district.

Candidate Lafawn Janis filed a petition to run for Area 3 of the school board. Her petition was accepted by the business manager of the school district but it was then then challenged for being inadequately filled out.

After consulting with lawyers for the district and the state secretary of state's office, Business Manager David Janak tossed Janis from the race. Janis responded by challenging the petition filed by her opponent, Brian Johnson, claiming similar discrepancies.

But the district ruled that Johnson's petition is valid.

Then Janis filed suit in Rapid City's federal court claiming her civil rights were violated and that her case and her opponent's case were not handled equally.

On Tuesday the lawyers for Janis and the school district sent a letter to Judge Karen Schreier asking that she "not rule on this case at least until tomorrow (Wednesday) at noon. The reason is because we are trying to settle this case," they wrote.

The school district would have to approve any settlement.

The lawyers for each side declined to comment for this story.