The race to lead the Oklahoma City School Board was narrowed from three candidates to two Tuesday morning when the Oklahoma County Election Board decided to remove one of the contestants from the ballot.
Former Douglass High School administrator Marcia Muhammad will not be an option for voters because she pleaded guilty in 2001 to two felony counts of falsely obtaining food stamps. Her three-year sentence was deferred.
State law bars anyone who is convicted or pleads guilty to misdemeanor embezzlement or any felony from running for public office for 15 years after the sentence is served.
School Board Chairwoman Angela Monson contested Muhammad's eligibility.
The election board voted 2-0 to remove Muhammad from the ballot.
“We have to look at the evidence we're given and follow the law,” Election Board Chairman Anita DeToy said.
Lynne Hardin is now the only person opposing Monson for her at-large position on the school board. The election will be Feb. 12.
The hearing lasted less than 45 minutes. Muhammad's ineligibility was apparent, said Ken Nance, an attorney representing Monson.
“The statute is very clear,” Nance said. “She pled guilty. She's disqualified from serving on a school board.”
Nance called Muhammad to testify, but she declined.
Muhammad presented a background check of herself she picked up from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The document showed her arrest, but not the guilty plea.
The guilty plea Muhammad entered in 2001 was what election board members were interested in.
“Under the statute, that's all you need,” Secretary Doug Sanderson said.
Criminal history doesn't preclude someone from filing for office, Sanderson said. Filing forms do not ask about criminal convictions.
After the hearing, Muhammad and Monson spoke quietly as others left the room at the election board office. The two have known each other since childhood, Monson said.
“Her commitment to our children is very clear,” Monson said. “It's consistent.”
Monson said the victory wasn't personally gratifying, but it was necessary.
“It's important the law be followed,” she said, “and the county Election Board did just that.”
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The statute is very clear. She pled guilty. She's disqualified from serving on a school board.”
Attorney representing School Board Chairwoman Angela Monson