School Board candidate will not appear on ballot

Linda Staiger’s name won’t be on the ballot for Columbia District School Board, the state electoral board decided Friday (Sept. 8).

Staiger said she will be running as a write-in candidate.

Her opponent, Andrew Pullen, began looking into specifics of Staiger’s candidacy immediately, he said.

Pullen filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to Registrar Joyce Pace asking “for all of the candidate paperwork like any candidate should to see who signed petitions and for opposition research,” he wrote in an email Sept. 6 responding to whether he or someone in his campaign filed the FOIA.

Pullen wrote that he and others in his campaign heard rumors Staiger didn’t live in the Columbia District.

She does.

Staiger lives at 2949 Ridge Road and said she has since 2004.

But the FOIA turned up something surprising.

On June 5 Staiger filed all the forms she thought were required to run for School Board.

On June 6 Pace certified Staiger’s candidacy.

But, as of April 26, a new form called a “statement of economic interest” is required for all candidates.

Staiger filed a financial disclosure form instead.

Pace didn’t notice the error until after Pullen filed his FOIA.

When Pace notified Staiger, she immediately filed the correct form, she said.

“The State Board of Elections provides potential candidates an opportunity to complete any missing paperwork in June but since my file was certified to them as complete, I was not notified of deficiencies,” Staiger wrote in a Sept. 11 email. “On Aug. 28, the registrar discovered that the wrong economic form was submitted and I provided the correct form that day. The registrar suggested I ask for an extension, but the State Board of Elections denied that, as it is too late in the election cycle and they would have to notify all candidates across the state. I am running as a write-in.”

Pullen said the mistake could be indicative of Staiger’s character.

“My opponent did not turn in the required paperwork by the due date of June 6, 2017, to be qualified as a candidate and to be on the ballot,” Pullen wrote in an email. “Deadlines for filing requirements is very clear and the responsibility is on the candidate, not the registrar to ensure that the paperwork is complete, accurate and delivered on time. To completely blame our registrar, Mrs. Pace for the incomplete paperwork and to expect the law to be overlooked displays a lack of personal accountability and attention to detail that ironically is one of the primary reasons I decided to run. If you are asking the citizens of the Columbia District to trust you with a $39 million budget, you should certainly be able to complete necessary paperwork, meet deadlines and accept responsibility.”

In no communication with the Fluvanna Review has Staiger dodged responsibility or blamed Pace.

“As I have been vigorously working with parents, teachers, staff and community, the more dedicated I am to fostering true community in Fluvanna,” Staiger wrote in an email. “My commitment to being an advocate for and a leader in education fuels my decision to continue.”