Judge: McGraw can vote despite residency violation

Embattled school board member Diyonne McGraw can attend and vote in Tuesday night’s board meeting, a judge ruled just hours before the School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) was set to convene. 

Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Donna Keim issued the ruling, which denied an emergency injunction request by several residents and McGraw’s defeated opponent in last year’s election, Khanh-Lien Roberts Banko. 

In a seven-page opinion Keim detailed the four prongs necessary to grant injunctive relief: (1) a substantial likelihood of winning on the merits of the case, (2) a lack of an adequate remedy at law, (3) the likelihood of irreparable harm without an injunction, and (4) that an injunction would serve the public interest. Keim ruled in favor of McGraw on the second and third prongs as grounds for denying the injunction. 

“There is insufficient evidence of irreparable injury to establish the right to injunctive relief,” the judge wrote. “Plaintiffs argue that irreparable injury will occur as McGraw is voting on school board matters involving significant expenditures. However, no evidence was presented as to these matters.”

Keim also wrote that the plaintiffs presented “no evidence of past actions by McGraw that have resulted in irreparable harm” or “any evidence of specific anticipated actions by McGraw that may result in irreparable harm.”

Earlier this month McGraw came under fire when an online petition brought attention to the fact that she lives in District 4, even though she was elected to represent District 2. 

Keim ruled only on the injunction request, not on the merits of the case, and wrote that the plaintiffs are likely to eventually win. 

“[T]here appears to be a substantial likelihood of success on the merits as the statutory authority presented by the Plaintiffs supports their argument that if McGraw does not live in the school district which she represents, District 2, she is not entitled to hold the seat for that district,” Keim wrote. “Under section 114.01(g), by McGraw’s failure to reside in the district for which she was elected, the seat is considered vacant.” 

Keim wrote that the residency issue violates both SBAC policy and the state constitution.

She also found in favor of Banko on the fourth prong of the injunction test. 

“[A]n injunction would serve the interest of the public as this would avoid questions as to the validity of the actions taken by the Alachua County School Board while McGraw’s status as a School Board member is in question due to litigation regarding same,” the judge wrote. 

When reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Richard Keith Alan II, McGraw’s attorney, declined to comment on the ruling.

Jeff Childers, the attorney for the plaintiffs, did not immediately return a request for comment. 

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