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Voters say ‘no’ to recall
By Chris Collins
Baker School Board Chair Lynne Burroughs and school board member Mark Henderson will retain their positions as a result of Tuesday’s failed recall election.
District patrons supported retaining Burroughs by a vote of 2,195 to 1,826 (54.6 percent to 45.4 percent), according to unofficial results from the Baker County Clerk’s Office. Henderson will retain his seat by a vote of 2,328 to 1,764 (56.9 percent to 43.1 percent).
A total of 4,021 votes were cast on the ballot to recall Burroughs and 4,092 votes were cast on the separate ballot for Henderson.
In an email to the Baker City Herald this morning, Henderson expressed his appreciation to his supporters and called for the community to come together to support the education of its children.
“Many people, on both sides of this issue have invested a lot of time and effort over the last 8 months,” he wrote. “I’d suggest that we all take a breather over the Christmas break. Then I’d urge people to renew their commitment to our Baker 5J students.”
Henderson called for residents to volunteer to help with the district’s elementary reading program in the new year or to invest time in fundraising efforts to support middle school and high school sports, arts and vocational clubs.
Burroughs told the Herald she was also working on a written statement, but it didn’t arrive by press time.
Kerry McQuisten, who led the recall effort, wrote in an email to the Baker City Herald that she doesn’t regret the time and effort expended.
“Recalls are tough in Baker County, and for this one to be as close as it was considering we were outspent 10 to 1, says something,” she wrote. “I’d much rather stand up for what’s right and lose than sit back and never try — and we definitely fought the good fight.”
McQuisten said the Secretary of State’s Office granted a waiver that did not require the committees organized to recall Burroughs and Henderson to report individual campaign contributions and expenditures because of the low total. She estimated that about $450 had been spent in support of the recall.
The Committee for No On 5J Recall received contributions of $3,892 and spent $3,330.11, according to the state Elections Division. The only individual contributors listed were David J. Burroughs, Burroughs’ son who is listed as an out-of-state contributor and gave $2,000 to the campaign, and a $1,000 loan received from Philip L. Burroughs, Lynne Burroughs’ husband.
Campaign expenditures included $1,910.47 paid to the Baker City Herald and $837.38 paid to The Record-Courier for advertisements, according to the report.
Aletha Bonebrake served as treasurer of the committee and Robert McKim was listed as a director on the Elections Division report.
McQuisten noted that the voters were split in their support for Burroughs and Henderson.
“Nearly half the community is unhappy enough with two of our school board members to want them removedfrom office, so I hope 5J takes note of that,” she stated.
“But from here we step out of the fight and the legal system steps in.”
School board member Kyle Knight, whose censure by Burroughs, Henderson and fellow director Andrew Bryan in April was the impetus for the recall campaign, has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court at Pendleton. He claims that his civil rights were violated when the board voted to censure him on the recommendation of Superintendent Walt Wegener.
In addition to the school district, the lawsuit names Wegener, Burroughs and Henderson as defendants. The 21-year-old Knight, who took office in July 2011, seeks up to $500,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages along with attorney fees and expenses. If he prevails in court, Knight says he will use any money left after his expenses are paid to establish a foundation to benefit Baker students.
In voting in favor of the censure, Burroughs, Henderson and Bryan claimed that Knight violated his oath of office when he released confidential information to the media about an employee accused of stealing from the district and other information they believe should have been kept confidential. As part of the censure, Knight’s access to certain information, staff members and service on committees has been restricted.
During his tenure on the board, Knight also has filed complaints with the Oregon Department of Justice asking for an investigation of how the board has handled matters related to budget committee appointments and administrative pay raises.