UPDATE: Palm Beach County’s teachers union declined Monday to certify the results of its presidential election after the losing candidate called for a recount.
Results tallied Saturday showed that Park Vista High teacher Justin Katz narrowly edged out Pahokee Jr./Sr. High teacher Gordan Longhofer by 28 votes out of 1,356 cast, a 2 percent margin of victory.
But Kathi Gundlach, president of the Classroom Teachers Association said the results “are unofficial at this time.”
“A recount has been requested as the vote differential was 28 votes,” she told The Palm Beach Post in a text message Monday evening.
The union’s elections committee will meet on Wednesday, she said, and “at that time a determination will be made how to handle the requested recount.”
Katz said in a statement on Facebook Monday night that Longhofer, who is a member of the union’s board of directors, had called for the recount.
In his statement, Katz said that the union has no policy about recounts in its rules and bylaws, but that he was told that the recount was being requested due to the “closeness of vote margin.”
One problem: the company that oversaw the voting process has already handed over the ballots to union leaders, many of whom opposed Katz’s outsider campaign, Katz said.
“The ballots have been in the possession of the current CTA executive director (a supporter of my opponent) since the initial, objective third-party counting this past Saturday,” Katz wrote. “The lack of security and integrity surrounding any recount, given that fact, is of great concern to me.”
Palm Beach County’s public school teachers have narrowly chosen a 33-year-old high school instructor as union president, according to preliminary returns, handing the leadership role to a young newcomer to union politics who ran an outsider campaign and was initially blocked from running by union leaders.
According to unofficial results tallied on Saturday, Justin Katz, a Park Vista High School teacher who is also a Boynton Beach city commissioner, narrowly defeated Pahokee Jr./Sr. High School teacher Gordan Longhofer, according to two officials familiar with the vote tally.
The union’s board of directors will meet today to discuss the results.
Katz ran for union president as an outsider, hoping to capitalize on dissatisfaction with the county Classroom Teachers Association’s recent track record. Billing his relative youth and lack of prior union experience as assets, he vowed to bring “fresh blood and some more youthful leadership” to an organization that advocates for the county school district’s roughly 12,000 teachers.
Longhofer edged him out in a crowded field in the first round of voting but Katz pulled out a narrow victory in the runoff. Out of roughly 1,300 votes cast, Katz won by a less than 60, two people familiar with the results said.
Union leaders had tried to block Katz from running, removing him from the race in January after ruling that he was ineligible because his dues lapsed in 2015 when he took a family leave to care for his dying grandmother.
All told, union leaders tried to disqualify four of the eight candidates who filed to run for president. All four, including Katz, were reinstated after the state union criticized their actions.
In a message posted on Facebook Saturday, Katz expressed gratitude to his supporters. The high school government teacher, who declined to comment for this article, is believed to be one of the youngest teachers to be elected president of the county’s teachers union.
“I’d like to thank all those that ran and put in the time and energy fighting for CTA to improve moving forward,” he wrote.