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Knight prevails in case
By Chris Collins
The Baker School Board’s eight-month censure of director Kyle Knight will be lifted as the result of a day-long mediation session Thursday.
Knight also was awarded attorney’s fees of $5,000 as part of the agreement, which settles the lawsuit he filed in September. No other damages were awarded.
Knight had sought up to $500,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages in a civil rights lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court at Pendleton.
“At the end I didn’t want to go through years and years of court over money,” Knight said in a telephone interview today. “I wanted to close the door and I wanted to seal it so we wouldn’t have any more dishonest information coming out.”
The Baker School Board was scheduled to meet at noon today to finalize the settlement.
Superintendent Walt Wegener issued this statement via email to the Baker City Herald today:
“The Baker School Board and District are pleased to announce resolution of the disputes between Kyle Knight, the District, Walt Wegener, Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson, including the Censure and the Federal lawsuit.
“The entire Board apologizes to the community for the distractions recent events have caused and all members look forward to continuing to serve the District and focusing their energies on the education needs of our children.”
Burroughs and Henderson were named in the lawsuit along with the school district and Wegener. The two board members also were the subjects of a failed recall in November that was organized by community members as a result of the censure.
Other board members are Andrew Bryan and Jim Longwell. Bryan joined Burroughs and Henderson in voting to censure Knight. Longwell sided with Knight in voting against the censure.
Knight said he has some catching up to do now that the issue has been settled.
The board censured Knight in April alleging that he had released confidential information about an employee accused of stealing from the district.
Since then his access to certain district information and contact with district staff has been restricted.
“I’m very satisfied with the results,” he said of Thursday’s mediation session.
Knight acknowledged that he could have resolved the controversy by complying with the board’s demand that he change his behavior and agree not to release information directors and administrators deemed confidential in the future.
But the 21-year-old board member said he couldn’t bring himself to do that.
“I’ve lived my life in a way that if I didn’t do anything wrong I’m going to fight it to the last bone in my body,” Knight said.
Don Dickey, a former Marion County Circuit Court judge, served as mediator and helped the two sides reach agreement. Lynne Burroughs, board chair, and director Mark Henderson attended the session along with Wegener, Knight and attorneys representing both sides. The meeting was conducted in the law offices of Yervasi and Pope.
Knight said the settlement requires the board to develop a policy about releasing information in the future.
“It’s a very good policy,” he added. “That’s what I wanted.”
Knight, who began his four-year term on the board in July 2011, said he regretted the year of squabbling and is happy to have his rights and responsibilities as a board member restored.
“Now I have the full rights of every other board member and that’s what I wanted,” he said.
Wegener praised the work of the mediator for helping the two sides resolve the lawsuit.
Dickey encouraged the board to work toward healing the polarization that has occurred over the past year, Wegener said.
“The censure and the lawsuit are behind us and we’ll start over today as if it was the first day,” he said.