Seven current and former members of the Central Point-based charter school may have violated executive sitting provisions of the Open Meetings Act, state commission says
The Madrone Trail Public Charter School board is in talks with the Oregon Ethics Commission, which concluded after a review that the board may have violated the open meeting law earlier this year when he attempted to act on matters concerning the school principal.
According to documents obtained by the Mail Tribune through a public records request, board chairman Erik Johnsen and board members Gesine Abraham, Katie Stumpff, Sage Keene, Bryant Jackson, Krista Peterson and Kelly Stofflet have all been the subject of an ethics complaint to the commission. by John Bissey, Executive Director of K-8 Central Point Institution.
“It is unfortunate to be in this position, but it was the culmination of unethical behavior on the part of the Chairman of our Board of Directors that I raised concerns with the rest of the board for years now,” Bissey wrote in her complaint. “I don’t believe it was an accident – or through ignorance – given that the arrangements for the executive session are quite clear, and he has been chairman of the board for almost two years now and treasurer before that.”
Bissey said he didn’t want to comment on this story so he could focus on the upcoming eighth grade graduation and help contribute to the “healing” he says needs to happen within the community. from Madrone Trail School. He was referring, in part, to the strained relationship between him and his school board, which led members earlier this year to vote not to extend his contract.
Johnsen told the Mail Tribune that the ethics commission investigation was still ongoing and it was the council’s policy not to comment on such matters while they were open.
According to information provided by the Ethics Commission, the agency and the board have begun negotiations for a “Final Stipulated Order,” which will outline what each of the Madrone Trail School Board members must do in response to the findings of the commission. Penalties could range from warrants for more training of board members to fines of up to $1,000 per violation. Peterson and Jackson are still under investigation and could face punishment even though they are no longer board members.
The core of Bissey’s complaint relates to an executive session (closed to the public) the school board allegedly held on Jan. 14. That meeting, according to ethics committee documents, was to be an executive session to discuss Bissey’s performance as executive director. and whether mediation would be an appropriate way to resolve issues between him and Johnsen.
Bissey argued that there was no public notice of that meeting, no agenda was posted, and the board voted during the executive session. The state’s open meeting law allows public bodies such as school boards to meet in closed session for limited discussion purposes, but requires the body to return to open session before taking votes.
The Mail Tribune found no notice or agenda for January 14. What appears is just an agenda for January 12, when the executive session – which was held two days later – was scheduled.
In his response to the commission’s inquiry, Johnsen said Bissey “verbally agreed” to a Jan. 12 executive meeting two days later, and subsequently the agenda for the Jan. 14 meeting was released. published online.
Ethics Commission staff listened to audio of the Jan. 14 meeting and obtained emails between Bissey and board members, and determined that several violations for holding an executive session had could occur.
These include: notice of this meeting was given less than 24 hours in advance; board members failed to tell the public that they were welcome to return to the meeting after the executive session; there may have been a “poll” of board members to decide whether Bissey should serve another year; and the board used the executive session to discuss matters to which it was not authorized.
The ethics commission’s preliminary report said agency staff had more questions they would like to pursue in an investigation. The commission heard the facts contained in the preliminary review reports and voted to have these matters investigated.
Ethics commission investigations can take up to six months, but parties can start negotiations long before that. If the stipulated final order is accepted, it will be presented to the commission at a future meeting for final approval.
Only after the commission has approved the orders are they posted as final provisions on the commission’s website. If negotiations are unsuccessful, an investigation report will be prepared and presented to the commission at the end of the six-month window.
Contact journalist Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.