The St. Tammany Parish School Board voted 11-4 Thursday night to ask Sharon Lo Drucker, the District 9 member, to resign in the wake of her arrest for shoplifting $58.25 worth of merchandise from a Walmart near Covington.
Drucker, who represents the Madisonville area, was polite but defiant in the face of her colleagues' displeasure, saying she remains "steadfast" in her determination to stay in office.
"I think everyone here is concerned about the welfare of our children and our school system," Drucker, 53, said. "Children make mistakes; so do adults. This was my mistake."
Drucker, who pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge in October, was allowed late last year by the 22nd Judicial District Attorney's Office to enter a 12-month diversion program that could lead to dismissal of the charge.
"I'm taking full responsibility by taking part in diversion," Drucker said, adding that the program is "not a slap on the wrist."
"This is the punishment I have to go through," she said.
She defended her record on the School Board, insisting that she has the support of her district, where she won re-election with 69 percent of the vote after her arrest became public. The majority of the voters consider her to be an effective advocate, she said.
"The laws that dictate elected officials are by statute," Drucker said. "That's what governs us, not members of the School Board. I am not resigning. That's what I said in my press release, and I'm sticking to it."
Board member Michael Nation, who offered the resolution asking for her resignation, responded, "Mrs. Drucker, who broke the law by stealing from Walmart, urges the board to follow the law. The irony of that can't be lost on anyone. Stealing is a willful act."
He said he was not making a moral judgment but a political one, saying she can no longer be an effective leader.
The board had called a special meeting Thursday to discuss the resolution in executive session. But Nation and other members said it should be discussed publicly.
When asked if Drucker had been consulted, board President Elizabeth Heintz said she hadn't. But Drucker said the matter had already been made public, and the board voted not to go behind closed doors.
Nation led the charge, saying he had hoped Drucker would do the right thing and have the courage to place the children and teachers of the school system first.
But not everyone agreed.
"I think she has been punished enough," board member James Braud said. "She's been embarrassed, and the board jumping on and piling on is wrong. It's just a mob mentality I think we have to resist."
Voters in her district voted overwhelmingly to return her to office, he said. If they want her out now, he said, they have that recourse through a recall drive.
Board member Ron Bettencourtt said that the resolution simply repeated what the board already asked Drucker to do in a statement it issued last week. Rather than adopt a repetitive resolution, he said, the board instead should vote to censure her.
Nation replied that the resolution is a form of censure. "We are distancing ourselves from her. She has stubbornly and steadfastly refused to do the right thing. She has put her personal needs above this great school system," he said.
Board member Mike Winkler pushed that idea further. "This is going to hurt us in the long run. It’s in the public eye, and we’re going to go out to the public soon for the bond issue (renewal) in May. All of us up here are going to go out to our constituents, and they're going to say, 'What's going on with you guys?' ... Each one of us has a black eye."
Drucker was arrested in July for stuffing items into her purse at a Walmart near Covington without paying for them, including hair products and a single jalapeno.
The government watchdog group Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany has called for her to resign and threatened to mount a recall effort. The St. Tammany Republican Parish Executive Committee also called for her to consider resigning. Drucker is a Republican.