School board removes Rude

Published 7:33 am Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Making state history, the Austin Public School Board has removed one of its elected members.

Curt Rude was ousted from his seat on the board by a unanimous vote Monday night — marking the first time a Minnesota school board member has been dismissed by their colleagues.

“The best word that I could use would be ‘exasperation.’ I am just exasperated by the whole process,” Rude said Tuesday morning, after the month-long process of de-seating him came to a close.

There was no discussion about Rude’s removal at the meeting. Member Don Fox was absent and Rude did not attend himself, but rather submitted a letter explaining that he did not feel his presence would be appropriate.

“If it should behoove the school board regarding my removal from the board, its will shall be done,” Rude wrote.

The board began the pursuit of Rude’s removal in early February, alleging, among other things, that his civil defamation lawsuit against the district created a conflict of interest. The district held a hearing weeks later, where an independent arbitrator reviewed both sides before issuing a recommendation that it would be best to remove Rude.

The conflict of interest concern is tied to a defamation suit Rude brought in November against former superintendent Candace Raskin and the school district, requesting at least $50,000 in damages.

Rude stated in his letter that he is not bringing a suit against the district.

“I am not a party in any legal proceedings against the district,” he wrote.

“Members know what my stand has been, and I am adamnant that it was not my intention and that I am not suing the district,” Rude said Tuesday morning.

Rude filed an affidavit in defense of his case last Monday, and superintendent David Krenz said after the meeting that he was unaware of Rude’s potential intentions to drop the case. The district plans to ask a judge for the dismissal of the case Wednesday.

Under state law, four members of a school board can vote to remove any member for “proper cause,” a term which is not defined within the law. The independent arbitrator’s recommendation to the board noted that school boards have the power to interpret the term and that Rude’s lawsuit and record of service were grounds to oust him.

“Rude’s failure to perform his duties as a School Board member, as established by his multiple violations of School Board Member Code of Conduct… constitutes ‘proper cause’ for his removal from the School Board,” the recommendation read.

The further violations refer to attendance issues.

Superintendent David Krenz has said the board tried to avoid the forced removal by sending a letter to Rude and his attorney about the conflict of interest, asking that he drop his lawsuit or resign.

“Some people take the path of least resistance,” Rude said. “That hasn’t been my way. I felt I was in this for the right reasons, and that’s why I didn’t resign.”

“Curt’s been very reasonable through all of this… he decided to take his own road,” Krenz said. “It’s important to understand that the board is putting itself behind the school district.”

Noting that some board members are personal friends with Rude, Krenz added, “It says a lot that some of the members were able to put aside their personal relationships.”

Rude’s letter spoke about the district’s need to serve the children to the best of its abilities and to be fiscally responsible; he also thanked the district’s teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians and other staff-members for their service, encouragement and support.

Rude concluded on a lighter note, writing, “Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.”

“I feel now, that I am more able to live with myself, knowing I stood up for my principles and values,” Rude said. “We ultimately agree to disagree, and I’m leaving the board, and the district, a better place. I’m honored to have served.”

State law mandates that the board must appoint a replacement to serve the duration of Rude’s term. The board will begin discussion of filling his seat at their next regular meeting, Krenz said.

The next meeting of the school board is April 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the city council chambers.