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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow 5J board chair says Kyle Knight violated oath

5J board chair says Kyle Knight violated oath

By CHRIS COLLINS

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The part of Thursday’s Baker School Board meeting originally advertised as closed to the public was instead conducted in open session, during which board chair Lynne Burroughs gave director Kyle Knight an ultimatum.

Reading a prepared statement, Burroughs said Knight would be censured if he refused to change his ways.

The warning fell on deaf ears because Knight left the meeting in protest before Burroughs spoke.

Burroughs accused Knight of revealing confidential information regarding a district employee alleged to have used a district purchase order to buy personal items.

As the meeting got under way Thursday, Knight made a motion to call the meeting to a close because, he claimed, it had not been not properly advertised.

He contended that because the 5:30 p.m. meeting, which had been advertised as an executive (closed to the public) session but was instead open to the public, the district did not provide him, the media or the public the 24-hour advance notice required by the Oregon Public Meetings law.

Knight said he had been asking for an open meeting since Sunday or Monday, but he been told that the meeting would be closed because the discussion would involve confidential information.

Knight was notified about 1:45 p.m. Thursday that his request for an open meeting would be granted. He then notified the media.

On the advice of attorney Dan Van Thiel, who contracts with the district to provide legal service, Burroughs called for a second to Knight’s motion to reschedule the meeting and then called for a vote.

The vote ended in a 2-2 tie with Burroughs and director Mark Henderson voting not to end the meeting and Knight and director Jim Longwell voting in favor. The motion failed because of the tie, Van Thiel said.

Norma Nemec, executive secretary to the board and superintendent Walt Wegener, said the Oregon School Boards Association had advised her that the meeting could go forward at 5:30 p.m. because the board had advertised other agenda items — a 6 p.m. special board meeting for the presentation of budget information — that were open to the public. 

Knight, though, insisted that the discussion about his actions, originally scheduled for 5:30 p.m., should be rescheduled to allow at least 24-hour’s notice to the public that the discussion would take place in a public session.

“I’m not going to stay here when the law clearly states it has to be 24 hours,” Knight said as Burroughs announced she would proceed with the meeting as planned.

“You’re quite particular about laws now,” Burroughs said as Knight left the room.

(Knight returned just before the board started its discussion of the budget, as advertised in the original agenda.)

After calling the meeting to order at 5:30 p.m., Burroughs read from a prepared statement in which she addressed her concerns about Knight and “the issue of proprietary confidential information.”

Burroughs said Thursday’s meeting was scheduled “as due process for a potential action of Censure.”

“You are in violation of your oath to support and promote the District. And you have been greatly at fault in revealing confidential information offered to you as a courtesy to assist you in your duties of oversight over District policy,” Burroughs said.

Burroughs said Knight would be censured unless he agreed to “cease and desist (his) inappropriate actions.”

Censure would mean:

• Knight would receive no communications from the directors or from any district office staff.

• The board would publicly inform the community that Knight is “separate and alone from the Board” and that he does not speak for the board on any subject.

• Knight would not be assigned to any committees or other district work groups.

• He would be allowed only limited discussion and the right to vote at board meetings.

“Once censured, you will be an ineffective Director and the Board will request your immediate resignation,” Burroughs said.

Should Knight refuse to resign, the board would seek community support for a recall election, she said.

In her statement, Burroughs informed Knight that he gave up part of his right to free speech in exchange for his seat on the board.

The district’s standard of conduct for board members states that they must understand that they will receive information that is confidential and cannot be shared, Burroughs said.

Knight has written letters to the editor criticizing district administrators and fellow board members for their handling of a proposed policy regulating weapons on district property, a decision to schedule class on Jan. 2, a legal holiday, and decisions regarding budget priorities.

Most recently, Knight announced to local media that a district employee was suspected of using a district purchase order to buy personal items.

The Baker City Herald has not reported the employee’s name because no criminal charges have been filed.

Through his actions, Burroughs said Knight has shown “disrespect for District staff, disregard for the professional attainments of the Superintendent, the Financial Officer and (his) fellow Board Members.”

She added that by releasing confidential information, Knight has put the district and each of the board members at risk of a civil lawsuit and has left himself open to prosecution.

“We are obliged to separate ourselves and the district from your persistent actions,” she said.

Director Mark Henderson also read from a prepared statement in which he criticized Knight for releasing confidential information and putting the district at risk of a lawsuit.

“If we as a School Board make mistakes, it is real kids that pay the price. And as a parent, let me warn you that parents can get very protective when their children’s education is being put in jeopardy,” he said.

Henderson accused Knight of using his position “to gain power at the expense of our kids.”

“However, if you are truly here out of a desire to serve our kids, then take this opportunity to step back, figure out what you need to do and then do it,” Henderson said. “We will continue to be here for you.”

 
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