Community members petition to recall school board member after comments

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
School board member Chris Patricca. Credit: WINK News.

Neighbors are fighting for new representation after a leader’s controversial comments about minority students.

There’s now a petition to recall and Lee County School Board member Chris Patricca, who spoke openly about Guatemalan students recently during a virtual community forum in Estero.

“They’ve never seen running water before,” Patricca was heardsaying during the virtual forum. “They go into the bathroom, and they turn the water faucet on, and they turn it off, and they flush the toilet, and they’re fascinated by, ya know, plumbing.”

Parents and people in the community are turning their verbal protest of what they call Patricca’s racist comments into action. They want her forced out of her position.

Florida law does not allow for the recall of a school board member or even the governor. There are some elected officials who can be recalled.

The governor can remove Patricca from the school board under some limited conditions. Saying something offensive isn’t one of them.

Neighbors in Patricca’s District 3 are not backing down. They’ve protested and called for Patricca’s resignation.

“She is certainly not an elected official for all the people,” Jacqueline Perez said during public comment at the most recent school board meeting.

Neighbors from District 3 are circulating a petition to recall Patricca and remove her from her school board seat.

“Honestly, I don’t see how anybody that’s in the field of education could have made those kinds of comments,” Denise Nystrom said.

But Nystrom told us this petition is about more than Patricca’s comments about Guatemalan students.

“The picture is even greater than that,” Nystrom said. “That was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The petition lists several accusations from misfeasance of office, to conflicts of interest and ethics violations.

The governor’s office told us it takes a strong legal basis for the governor to remove an elected official.

Nystrom hopes that enough signatures will catch the governor’s eye and spark change.

“If we had enough petitioners that understood how important it was to recall this particular individual, and the governor received that information, and maybe an investigation would be conducted on the part of the governor, and perhaps we could make some history in Florida by recalling this board member,” Nystrom said.

We called Patricca Wednesday to ask for her comment about the recall petition. She said, “This stuff does not take up any space in her brain.”

Patricca apologized for her comments during Tuesday nights’ school board meeting. She hopes to now concentrate on serving students in Lee County schools.

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