Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Trial scheduled in trustee battery case

Search to start anew for Zone 4 school board member

Express Staff Writer

Richard “Rick” Roberts

    A jury trial has been scheduled to begin on Dec. 4 for a former Blaine County School District trustee who is charged with misdemeanor battery for allegedly grabbing a 16-year-old boy by the neck at a concert on Aug. 29 at River Run in Ketchum.
    Richard “Rick” Roberts, who resigned from the school board on Oct. 1, did not return a telephone call for comment regarding the situation to the Idaho Mountain Express by press deadline Tuesday. However, his attorney Douglas Nelson spoke on his behalf last week and said his client is innocent, that his client grabbed the boy by the shoulders and not by the neck and that Roberts was provoked because the boy spit on him.
    According to a Ketchum police report, there was no altercation between Roberts and the boy prior to the spitting incident. The boy acknowledged that he did spit in Roberts’ direction, but not with the intent of hitting him. Furthermore, according to the report, the boy told police, “I sort of yelled. I’m sorry.”
    In his letter of resignation, Roberts wrote that his resignation was “effective immediately.”
    As was the case for four months earlier this year, before Roberts was selected as the district Zone 4 trustee, the board now finds itself with only four members for an indeterminate period of time. Finding a Zone 4 representative last time was not an easy task, as the district was unable to find a single volunteer for the post living within Zone 4 in a search that extended for about three months. The search followed the resignation in January of former Board Chairman Paul Bates.

I hope that the individuals who care about children will see the wonderful opportunity they have by serving on the board of trustees.”
GwenCarol Holmes

    In the end, the school board, as allowed by Idaho law, chose Roberts, who lives in Hailey, which is not included in the boundaries of Zone 4, which encompasses west Ketchum and areas west of state Highway 75 from just north of Hailey to the Blaine County border with Custer County.
    Roberts was one of four applicants who applied in May for the Zone 4 post when state law allowed a district-wide search. The others were Hailey residents Tom Bergin and Carol Freund and Bellevue resident David Wray.
    Bergin, Freund and Wray described themselves as lifetime or long-term residents of Blaine County. Roberts, an attorney, described himself as a “newcomer,” having lived in Blaine County for only two years.
    “I’m new to the community with no preconceived notions about the school system, the community or the individuals in it,” Roberts said at a special school board meeting on May 27, when he was chosen as trustee by the board. His selection was not unanimous. Board Chairman Shawn Bennion and Trustees Kathy Baker and Kathryn Graves selected Roberts as their top choice, while Trustee Elizabeth Schwerdtle chose Freund as her top choice and Roberts as No. 2.
    The school board provided no explanation at the May 27 meeting as to why Roberts was so heavily favored, but explained instead that any of the four applicants would have been a qualified board member.
    New School Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes seems optimistic that a new trustee can be readily found, and stated such in the district’s Oct. 2 press release announcing Roberts’ resignation.
    “I have met so many people who care about kids during my listening tour,” Holmes stated. “From our nonprofit partners to the many individuals I’ve met with, there are hundreds of people in our community who could serve on our board and make a difference. I hope that the individuals who care about children will see the wonderful opportunity they have by serving on the board of trustees.”
    The school board is expected, likely next week, to announce the procedure for applying to fill the vacancy.

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