Tim Shaw has resigned his seat on the Orange County Board of Education in order to avoid costly incompatible offices litigation by an close ally of a political opponent. However, Shaw could very possibly be re-appointed to the 4th District seat in the near future.
The litigation was filed in in January of this year by Melissa Louden, a friend and political supporter of Paulette Chaffee. Chaffee ran for the same OC Board of Education seat as Shaw in March of 2021. Shaw finished first, while Chaffee came in third.
Two years earlier, Shaw ran for the Orange County Board of Supervisors, but was narrowly defeated by Paulette Chaffee’s husband Doug.
In November 2020, Shaw was re-elected to the La Habra City Council, on which he has served since 2008. In January 2021, Louden filed a lawsuit claiming that by simultaneously serving on the La Habra City Council and the OC Board of Education, Shaw violated state law against holding incompatible offices.
Shaw says he believed he would prevail in litigation, pointing out that incompatibility only comes into play where there is a “significant clash of loyalties” between the two offices.
“Clearly there are no ‘significant clash of loyalties’ between the La Habra City Council and OCBE in the normal understanding of those words,” said Shaw.
OC Board of Education member Ken Williams said he can’t recall the OCBE ever dealing with the La Habra City Council during his 25 years on the board.
Louden’s lawsuit did not cite a single actual issue or vote to establish an instances of a “significant clash of loyalties’ – instead offering up improbable hypotheticals.
For the lawsuit to proceed, it was necessary for the state Attorney General to rule Louden had standing – which happened several days ago.
While Louden’s lawsuit was of questionable strength, the legal cost of contesting it would likely be exorbitant. Furthermore, if he lost the lawsuit, Shaw would be on the hook for Louden’s legal costs, in addition to his own.
“The financial exposure and risk to my family was simply too great to go through with litigation. Therefore, I am making the difficult decision to resign from the OCBE rather than incur the financial hardship of litigating this matter,” said Shaw in a statement.
Shaw’s resignation takes effect immediately.
Another OC Board of Education member, Becky Gomez, is in the same situation as Shaw. She simultaneously serves as a member of the Tustin City Council. However, no one has brought a similar lawsuit against Gomez, a Democrat. And since the Louden lawsuit wasn’t litigated to a conclusion, there is no court determination on the matter.
Shaw’s time on the OCBE was marked by strong support for empowering parents to control the education of their children, including support for charter schools, increased school choice and opposition to state mask mandates for children.
Re-Appointment In The Cards?
Resignation from the OC Board of Education was Shaw’s only path to rendering the lawsuit moot, since he was re-elected to the La Habra City Council after his election to the OCBE. The law requires keeping the office to which one was most recently elected, and resigning from the other.
The OC Board of Education has the option of filling the vacancy by appointment or special election.
Shaw retains a pathway back to the Board of Education. If he resigns from the La Habra City Council, he would be eligible for appointment to the seat, as there would be no issue of incompatible offices. Shaw would have a strong claim to re-appointment given that he had been democratically elected to the post in 2020.