Although some might believe otherwise, it appears the problems with the Mellen Water District and the West Side Sewer District are the result of honest mistakes.
Granted, the mistakes shouldn't have happened. It is the responsibility of board members of any government entity to know the law concerning that particular entity. In actual practice, that's pretty rare. And for small, obscure districts like these two, with limited resources, they rarely, if ever, send board members or their secretaries to training sessions that would keep them up to date on the laws.
The county and state can provide checklists if asked, but over the years it appears either nobody asked or nobody bothered to look at them closely. So, for years, no notice was provided that told voters how they could file a petition of candidacy for a board position. When that was finally brought to the attention of the county, there was no choice but to void the May 26 election board elections in those two districts.
It also meant the legal standing of all of the board members in the two districts could be questioned, but it seems likely the courts would uphold any decisions made by those boards over the years that hadn't been challenged in a timely manner.
The sewer district will reset its election to Aug. 4, in order to give time to provide all the proper legal notices, but currently intends only to have the two board members whose terms are up this year face election.
The water district has decided the best course of action is to put all of its board members up for election on Aug. 4, and in effect reset the board terms as if they were just being formed. For a lot of reasons, that seems like the best way to go. That way, no board member would face a challenge to his or her legal standing.
We urge the sewer district to consider the same course of action.
-- Kelly Everitt