Home News Local News Knight: ‘I won’t be resigning — ever’
Knight: ‘I won’t be resigning — ever’
By CHRIS COLLINS
Kyle Knight says his Baker School District constituents shouldn’t worry about him leaving his elected position the way he left a special board meeting March 29.
“I won’t be resigning — ever,” he said during a Tuesday interview. “I don’t quit anything. That is never going to happen.”
The board has scheduled a public meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the District Office, 2090 Fourth St., to discuss standards of board behavior.
Board Chairman Lynne Burroughs read a statement at a special meeting March 29 outlining how the board would proceed if Knight fails to “cease and desist” releasing “confidential” district information to the public.
Burroughs claims Knight has violated his oath of office and board member standards of conduct.
Knight denies any wrongdoing. (He did not attend the portion of the March 29 meeting dedicated to discussing his actions because he maintained it had not been properly advertised as a public meeting.)
Knight says he has received an overwhelming amount of public support since stories about the March 29 meeting were published. He said he has no plans to sign the agreement Burroughs has proposed calling for him to pledge to change his behavior.
Burroughs said in a telephone interview from aboard a bus in New York City Thursday that she hopes Knight will change his mind and agree to cooperate with the board. Burroughs was leading a tour of the Big Apple Thursday with 20 Baker City residents.
She said she would have preferred to stay home and settle the issue with Knight, but the tour had been planned for six months and could not be postponed.
“He has a decision to make,” she said. “He has said no, but certainly I’m going to give him another chance to say yes before we censure him. I would prefer he’d say yes.
“None of this is pleasant, I’ll tell you that,” Burroughs said.
Since taking office in July 2011, Knight has had conflicts with district officials and fellow board members over several issues, including a district weapons policy, the scheduling of classes on Jan. 2, a federal holiday, and budget priorities.
The issue of censure arose after Knight released information to the media about a 5J employee who has been accused of using a district purchase order to buy personal items.
If he is censured, Knight’s effectiveness as a board member would be hampered because he would no longer have a right to confidential information, Burroughs said.
She added that the board has tried to work with Knight to educate him about his roles and responsibilities to no avail.
“He has no respect for the rules that have been in force and the laws we all have to follow,” she said. “The liability is huge — we’re in trouble here.”
Mark Henderson, another board member, focused on the liability issue in a statement he made during the March 29 meeting as well. In his criticism of Knight, Henderson contended that by releasing information about a confidential matter, Knight exposed the district to “horrendous liabilities” and suggested that he was putting his personal “political career” ahead of any concern for the education of the district’s children.
“That is way out of line,” Knight said in responding to Henderson’s claim. “I represent all the kids in the district. I care for all the schools. It’s just completely out of line.”
And Knight criticized the actions of Superintendent Walt Wegener, who appeared on a La Grande radio program Monday morning to discuss the possible censure of Knight.
“I think it’s ridiculous for a superintendent to go around campaigning against a school board member,” he said.
Knight said Wegener should realize that he plans to complete his four-year term on the board and might even run for re-election.
“It’s not wise to disrespect a board member,” Knight said of the superintendent. “He has no right to tell me my role.”
Knight points to the Attorney General’s Public Meetings Manual to defends his release of information about the accused employees’ actions.
In the manual, Attorney General John Kroger urges public agencies to favor opening records that are “conditionally exempt” from disclosure, which includes the type of information Knight released to the media last month.
Kroger cites an Oregon Court of Appeals view that the Public Records Law meets the Oregon Legislature’s goal of providing the public a better understanding of how public business is conducted and that the public interest in disclosure affords “the right of the citizens to monitor what elected and appointed officials are doing on the job.”
The Attorney General’s manual points out that “This might include, for example, the right to inspect records of alleged misuse and theft of public property by public employees.”
Knight said he determined that the public interest in the information outweighed the employee’s interest in confidentiality.
Knight did not release the employee’s name or any records exempt by law from disclosure in emails sent to the Baker City Herald. The Herald has not reported the employee’s name because no criminal charges have been filed.
Baker City Police are investigating the allegations.
Knight wrote in an email to the Herald that he takes his oath seriously, which includes this requirement of the board standards of conduct: “Respect the right of the public to be informed about district decisions and school operations as allowed by law.”
Burroughs said during the March 29 meeting that if Knight is censured, the board would next seek his immediate resignation. If he declines, the board would encourage a recall of Knight.
“Where is the support for a recall?” Knight asks. “That’s not there.”
He added that the act of censuring him would make little difference to how he’s been treated since he took office.
“Since Kyle Knight came to town I haven’t been treated as a board member,” he said.
Knight, who was 19 when he ran for office and has since turned 20, said he purposely chose to run against Damien Yervasi, former board chair, rather than running for one of three unopposed seats on the board in the May 17, 2011, election.
“I ran against a tough candidate and I won,” he said. “I wanted to make sure people wanted me on that board and they did.”
Knight defeated Yervasi by a vote of 1,574 to 1,386.
“I’ve had people tell me ‘why are they doing this to you — we elected you,’ ” he said.
Burroughs reprimanded Knight in her statement March 29 for showing disrespect to the district staff and his fellow board members.
But Knight counters that he believes he is the one who’s been treated with disrespect.
“I’d love to have a better relationship with this district,” he said. “But they need to understand I have every right to criticize the district.”