By MARC VALERO

Staff Writer

SEBRING — The recent election of officers for the school support employees union is being challenged by two School Board of Highlands County employees, including a candidate who lost her bid for the presidency.

Marcia Percy and Tammy Mortensen are challenging the procedures of the election that was held Oct. 4.

“We have filed a grievance for a petition to have that looked at,” Percy said. “We looked at the bylaws and there seems to be some conflict with the bylaws and the whole process. In our opinion, the rules weren’t followed.

“So we are asking for a new vote. We think that the results could be tampered with.”

Israel Santiago was re-elected president of the Highlands County Educational Support Association defeating Mortensen by a vote of 19-15.

Percy explained there was a nomination process and then the members of the union voted.

There are about 100-plus union members, but only about 35 voted, she said. While the teachers union is pretty active, there is not much support for the non-instructional union.

There was only a four-vote difference in the vote between the two candidates for the union’s presidency, Percy said. “It was interesting.”

In an email to Highlands News-Sun, Percy stated, “We have sent a challenge to the executive board due to questionable election procedures. We checked the by-laws and found two rules that were specifically violated, in addition to several other inconsistencies.”

The election is addressed in the support union’s Fall 2019 Newsletter, which was posted Sept. 5 on the union’s Facebook page.

Under “President’s Corner,” the newsletter states, “It is time for HCESPA Officer elections. We tried unsuccessfully in May to hold the election. President, 2nd, VP, Secretary and treasurer are up for election. Term of office: Oct. 4, 2019 — June 30, 2021.”

Deputy Superintendent Andrew Lethbridge said he was aware of the issue, but it is not something that involves the School Board. It is an issue that the union would have to resolve.

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