Gov. Ron DeSantis removed a member of the Alachua County School Board on Thursday, opening the door for him to appoint a replacement.
Diyonne McGraw is facing a legal challenge contending the member, elected to the board last year, doesn’t live in District 2, which she represents. According to reports, property tax records, voter registration records and her own statement show she lives in District 4, potentially making her ineligible to serve the second district.
On Tuesday, Judge Donna Keim of the 8th Circuit Court ruled that there’s a strong likelihood McGraw “is not entitled to hold the seat for that district.” However, the judge stopped short of approving an injunction preventing her from voting on the School Board while the case plays out.
But DeSantis stepped in Thursday, citing Keim’s findings as enough to declare a vacancy, effectively removing McGraw by executive order.
“Due to Diyonne McGraw’s failure to maintain the residence required of her by law, a vacancy exists on the Alachua County School Board, District 2, which I shall fill in compliance with the law,” according to the order.
Some of the Governor’s more vocal critics are crying foul over the move.
Adam Christensen, a Democrat who lost his 2020 race for Congress to now-U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack, both of Gainesville, predicted retribution at the ballot box for what he called a unilateral decision.
“This is a snatch and grab, big government at work, power play,” he tweeted.
“In November the Black community organized to win the majority for the first time. It took 6 months for (DeSantis) to find a way to strip the community of their new power,” he continued.
A half hour after Christensen’s tweet, DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw tweeted a response to Christensen.
“According to Florida statute, the state constitution (and) Alachua school board bylaws, the Governor does indeed have the authority to declare this vacancy and fill it in compliance with the law. School board members are required to live in the districts they represent,” Pushaw wrote.
Attorney Jeff Childers, who represented plaintiffs in the case seeking to strip McGraw of voting powers, told the Gainesville Sun the Governor did the right thing.
“It played out as well as it possibly could have for my clients, I think they feel very vindicated, it was always a matter of doing what was right and following the law.” he said.
McGraw’s election has already delivered significant consequence to school district. Superintendent Karen Clarke left her position, replaced by Carlee Simon in an interim capacty. Simon supported the elected of the majority on the board.
The School Board has previously discussed redrawing district lines to accomodate McGraw, the Sun reports, but criticis say that does not change the fact McGraw ran and won election to a district where she did not live at the time.
McGraw has previously maintained she followed direction from the Supervisor of Elections Office when filing to run.