On Feb. 6, Humble ISD Board of Trustees member Heath Rushing officially left the CEO job at Memorial Hermann Northeast and took responsibility as CEO of Memorial Hermann Cypress and Memorial Hermann Katy hospitals.
Rushing’s trustee term expires in 2019, and he is expected to move away from the Kingwood area and likely give up his board seat in June 2017, after the current school year ends. He and his wife have three children.
Texas election code states that a candidate must reside in the district they represent at least six months prior to filing for candidacy. Continued residency is addressed by the Texas Education Code, Sec.11.052(g): “A trustee vacates the office if the trustee fails to move into the trustee district the trustee represents within the time provided by this subsection or ceases to reside in the district the trustee represents.”
According to Barbara Williams, communications representative for the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), there are three options available to school boards in the event of a resignation: first, the vacant seat can be filled by appointment until the next regular trustee election. The appointed trustee would serve until the next regular trustee election in May 2019. Second, a special election can be held to fill the vacancy, but can only be held on the two uniform election dates in Texas –May or November. Third, if less than one year remains in the term, the position can be left vacant until the next election because at that time the term would have expired and voters would elect a full-term replacement. However, if more than a year remains on the vacated term, then the position can be left vacant for six months but then must be filled.
A board member may submit a resignation for a future specified date, and the board member is entitled to serve until that date. Any replacement must wait until after that date to begin serving in the seat, and the resigning board member cannot participate in any board vote to appoint a successor. Only the remaining trustees can vote.
The board can meet in closed session to discuss the appointment of a person to fill the vacancy. This is one allowable exception, called the personnel exception, to the Texas Open Meetings Act that would allow a board to interview and discuss appointees, but the vote must be in an open session.
The issue of a possible Rushing resignation was first published in an article in The Tribune on Deborah Yocham’s sudden withdrawal from the race for Position 3.The Tribune queried each of the current board members, including Rushing, to comment or provide information on a potential resignation. Nancy Morrison responded that she could not speak for Rushing. Angela Conrad responded and stated she had done some research into how to fill board vacancies.
Per the Texas Public Information Act, The Tribune has requested board decisions regarding vacancies for the last 20 years. In particular, The Tribune has asked for the following: The name of the person holding the seat, and year; the reason for vacating the seat (illness, death, moving, etc.); how the seat was filled: appointed, special election or other; the name of person filling the seat; and if appointed, who did the appointing. The information has been requested from the district by March 10.
Humble ISD general counsel Rob Ross stated that if Rushing had resigned his seat on Feb. 6 (the date of his job announcement), the seat could have been added to the May ballot, but would have required the board to call a special board meeting. According to Sam Taylor of the Texas Secretary of State Election Division, “If this resignation created a vacancy that needed to be filled and wasn’t otherwise on the ballot, then the district would have to order a special election and the filing period would depend on when the vacancy occurred and the special election ordered. If this position was already on the ballot, and the only filer for the position is the candidate who has now resigned, then a vacancy will occur at the time of the canvass of the election and the board will have to take vacancy filling measures at that time. This is all outlined in Texas Election Code 201.054.”