Zack Abernathy, a teacher, coach and activity director at Sonora High who is trying to get his name on ballots to run for Tuolumne County Schools Superintendent, took his case to court Tuesday in Sonora.
Abernathy has had a dispute with county election officials in recent weeks over whether he meets one of the requirements to apply for an administrative services title. He wants his name to appear on ballots that will be printed later this week for the June 7 gubernatorial primary election, which will see candidates running for several elected county offices.
Abernathy and his Santa Barbara-based attorney, John J. Thyne III, filed an eight-page motion, a 12-page demand order, a six-page demand, and a one-page subpoena announcing his intention to sue the county. and County Clerk-Registrar of Electors Debi Bautista.
Abernathy was scheduled to appear in Tuolumne County Superior Court southeast of downtown Sonora at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Bautista was at a table in the Department 1 courtroom before Presiding Judge Kevin Seibert. County Attorney Sarah Carillo, senior county government counsel, was represented by Deputy County Attorney Christopher Schmidt at the same table as Bautista.
Abernathy was at another table. Thyne was on speakerphone.
Sacramento attorney Erika Rodine came to Department 1 to represent the Tuolumne County School Board. She said the council is not a party to the lawsuit. She said she would like to address the court on behalf of counsel.
Seibert made it clear he won’t be making a decision on Tuesday. He asked Schmidt and Bautista if they objected to an order shortening the time for legal action, to make a decision before the June 7 ballots were printed at noon Friday.
Bautista said to meet the deadline, the court would have to make a decision a few hours before noon Friday.
Seibert said he had received legal information from Thyne and the county attorney, and he asked if anyone intended to file any further information. Thyne and Schmidt said no, and Rodine said the county council had no plans to file.
Seibert set the next hearing for 3 p.m. Thursday in Department 1. He then asked if Abernathy was elected, how long would it be before taking office. Bautista said Abernathy would have June 7 through the second Monday in January before being sworn in, if voters elect him.
Seibert then asked if the county recognized that if Abernathy had the required credentials, would he be eligible to vote today, and county officials responded that he would.
Outside Department 1, Rodine declined to comment.
Abernathy was asked his thoughts on how county election officials handled the issue and he replied, “They were great. They were helpful.
When asked if he felt like he was wronged by county election officials, or if he felt like they were intentionally trying to prevent him from voting in any way , Abernathy answered “no” to both.
“It’s just a matter of paperwork,” he said. “We’ll see what happens on Thursday and then we’ll get on with our lives.”
Abernathy also shared a prepared statement, in which he said a county superintendent of schools candidate in Santa Barbara County “with the same qualifications as me was allowed to remain on the ballot by court order. last Tuesday”.
In light of the ruling, Abernathy said he and his attorney have requested a reconsideration of his eligibility with the local court.
“We have tried to do this as quietly as possible to avoid any potential political outrage directed at the County Elections Office or Office of Schools and would like to focus on the merits of the arguments,” Abernathy said in the statement. “I believe our local officials acted with integrity and I was treated fairly at every turn.”
If Abernathy gets his name in the June 7 ballots, he will run against first-term incumbent Superintendent of Schools Cathy Parker, who was previously elected in June 2018.
Abernathy said in a March 18 statement that he initially believed he met the qualifications, but later withdrew his application after discovering he had to file an additional document to finalize his credentials and that he did not. would not be able to do so within the time required to get on the ballot.
Court documents recently filed by Abernathy and Thyne include a copy of a document listing his activity supervisor clearance certificate; four single-subject teaching certificates; two district interim credentials; three 30-day substitute teaching permits; and a Certificate of Eligibility for Administrative Services Credentials.
Court records focus on the Certificate of Eligibility.