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Knight excluded from meeting
By CHRIS COLLINS
Baker School Board member Kyle Knight’s conflict with some of his colleagues and Superintendent Walt Wegener continued Wednesday.
Both Wegener and board member Mark Henderson vowed to call police if Knight refused to leave a closed meeting conducted by two other members of the five-member board.
Knight, who was not invited to the meeting, left the meeting before any calls were made.
The meeting was scheduled so a board subcommittee composed of Henderson and Board Chair Lynne Burroughs could hear presentations from district officials and a fourth-grade South Baker teacher who has filed an employment-related grievance against the district.
Teacher Jamey Hardy, who submitted her resignation in March, was represented at the meeting by Sandy Bushek, Oregon Education Association consultant for Eastern Oregon. Hardy, whose contract continues through June 8, is out on medical leave with a knee injury she sustained coaching Baker Middle School tennis.
Hardy wants to keep her job, but all open teaching positions at South Baker School have been filled, pending board approval later this month, Wegener said Thursday.
The district was represented at Wednesday’s meeting by Wegener and Betty Palmer, South Baker principal.
The issue was taken to the two-member subcommittee of Henderson and Burroughs because the grievance remained unresolved after Hardy had met four times with district administrators, Wegener said after Wednesday’s meeting.
A special meeting is scheduled for noon Monday at the District Office, 2090 Fourth St. The board is expected to rule on Hardy’s grievance then. Wegener said he would distribute reports from Henderson and Burroughs to all board members — except Knight — to consider before voting.
Knight was censured by a 3-2 vote of the board in April after Burroughs, Henderson and director Andrew Bryan found that Knight had released confidential employee information. As part of the censuring process Knight has not been given confidential information directors believe he might release to the media.
A group of community residents has launched a recall campaign against Burroughs and Henderson because of their action to censure Knight. Bryan is not included in the recall.
Wegener said that because he has been censured, Knight cannot serve on any committees and “can’t be exposed to any confidential information.”
Wednesday’s closed session began at 4 p.m. and was disrupted at about 4:20 p.m. when Knight entered the closed meeting-room door that was posted as an “executive session.”
Members of the media are allowed to attend the closed sessions, which may be called only for specific topics such as personnel issues, with the understanding that information discussed during the session will be kept confidential.
As Knight entered the room, Wegener immediately informed the 20-year-old board member that he would have to leave.
“So you’re kicking me out?” Knight asked.
“You’re censured ... and you may leave,” Wegener said, citing conversations with an Oregon Government Ethics Commission representative in which Wegener said he was told that the district was within its authority to bar Knight from Wednesday’s subcommittee executive session.
Henderson echoed Wegener’s directive to Knight to leave the meeting.
“It’s clear you have a decision to make,” Henderson told Knight.
Wegener added, “If you don’t leave, I’ll call 9-1-1 and I’ll have you trespassed.”
Knight asked under what authority he was being removed from the meeting.
Wegener replied that Knight had violated “any number of privacy and confidentiality laws.” Wegener cited Oregon Revised Statues 192.501 to 192.505, which deal with public records.
Henderson then informed Knight that police would be called if he remained on the premises by the time Henderson counted to five.
And Henderson began the countdown: “one, two, three ...”
At the count of three, Knight conceded that he would leave the building.
In a telephone conversation after the meeting, Knight said he “felt violated” when Wegener told him he could not attend the meeting.
“And then Mark tried to count — like I’m some kid,” Knight said. “I’m not a student and they can’t intimidate me. What Mark did was highly unprofessional.”
Knight said he chose to leave rather than have police called because he did not want to distract a police officer from more important business.
He said he plans to meet with his attorney to decide what to do next.
“I have every right to be there,” Knight said. “They illegally kicked out a public board member.
“The press was allowed to be there and a board member was not,” he said.
Director Jim Longwell, who declined an invitation to meet with Henderson and Wegener on May 25 to learn more about Hardy’s grievance, said in a telephone conversation Thursday that if he’d been in Knight’s position, he would have let the district call police.
“I’d have stayed there,” Longwell said. “I’d have loved to spend the night in jail. I don’t approve of anything they’re doing.”
Longwell, who voted against censuring Knight (as did Knight himself), said he believes the subcommittee process, which Wegener said was implemented after discussions with the Oregon School Boards Association, “violates the spirit of the open meetings law.”
“It’s kind of like an end run around open meetings,” Longwell said.
He said he declined by email to meet with Henderson and Wegener, stating that he did not “plan to attend any of these clandestine meetings.”
Longwell added that he believes the entire board should have been present to hear the grievance during the closed meeting.
“I have a feeling we’re going to be voting on something we have no idea what it is,” Longwell said.
The school district sent notices of Wednesday’s meeting to the Baker City Herald. The district also sent an earlier notice for the meeting’s original scheduled time of Tuesday at 5 p.m. It was later rescheduled to Wednesday at 4 p.m.
Wegener said Hardy and Bushek signed a statement prior to the start of the hearing assuring that they would accept the subcommittee as hearings officers for Hardy’s grievance.
Ronald Bersin, the Oregon Government Ethics Commission’s executive director, said in a telephone interview Thursday that the commission has no duty to enforce who a board would allow to attend to a grievance hearing. And the censure of a school board member also is not something the commission would oversee.
Bersin said the commission oversees the subject matter considered in an executive session and whether it is allowed by statute.
“A public body can be whatever it wants to be,” he said, adding that the subcommittee could come out of executive session with recommendations for the entire board to consider.
Which is exactly what is planned for Monday’s special meeting, Wegener said.