Former Alachua County School Board candidate Khanh-Lien Banko plans to sue current board member Diyonne McGraw, who defeated Banko in the August 2020 election, and alleges that McGraw is ineligible to serve on the board because she does not live in the school board district she was elected to represent.
McGraw ran to represent District 2, but her certified candidate form listed her address as 4331 NW 21st Terrace, which is within District 4.
“The lawsuit is asking the court to enforce the Florida Constitution and [Florida statutes] and the Alachua County School Board policy that requires representatives to remain in their district,” said Banko’s attorney, Jeff Childers, who plans to ask a court to hear the suit on an emergency basis.
McGraw did not respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit could escalate a growing controversy over McGraw’s residence and election to the board. A petition created by a group called Concerned Alachua County Parents calls for McGraw’s resignation, citing public records that show her residence listed at the 21st Terrace address, within the boundaries of District 4.
Because of this, the group argues that McGraw is not qualified to hold her position, and was never qualified to be on the ballot. The Concerned Alachua County Parents petition also states that McGraw should step down to maintain the “integrity” of election proceedings and the “ethical responsibilities” of the school board.
The petition has over 600 signatures, and the group hopes to collect at least 1,000.
According to a press release from the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office, McGraw’s address on her Candidate Oath for the 2020 election is listed within District 4 of the Alachua County School Board.
McGraw fights back
McGraw recently released documents hoping to prove that the voting precinct near where she resides should be a part of the school board district she is supposed to represent.
However, Childers argued that McGraw’s claims don’t make legal sense.
“Part of Voting Precinct 57 is in school board District 2, and part of it is in District 4,” Childers said. “But Ms. McGraw’s residence is on the District 4 side of the precinct.”
Voting precincts and school board districts are separate entities, Childers said, adding that McGraw’s defense shows she may be confused.
Similarly, the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office reinforces this notion in its press release, stating that changing voting precinct boundaries does not change school board boundaries.
School Board’s response
So far, the Alachua County School District is standing by the election’s results.
Though the information McGraw submitted on her candidate card listed her address in District 4, she was certified as winner of the election, according to district spokesperson Jackie Johnson.
The School Board does not have the authority to overturn McGraw’s win, Johnson said. That action is only possible through a judge’s ruling or an order from Gov. Ron DeSantis, she said.
“She was declared the winner by the Supervisor of the Elections office,” Johnson said. “This decision cannot be overturned by the school board.”
According to the Gainesville Sun, school board member Robert Hyatt feels the issue of McGraw’s eligibility is important enough to suspend board votes on other items until her status is resolved. Other members, such as Tina Certain, disagree with Hyatt’s reasoning and have called the eligibility accusations disrespectful.