Police probe of Ontario recording ends, finds no crime

Ontario School Board members, from left, Eric Evans, Bianca Rodriguez, Derrick Draper and Renae Corn. (The Enterprise/file)

ONTARIO – The mystery of who secretly recorded an Ontario High School staff meeting earlier this year remains unsolved despite a police investigation, according to a report obtained by the Enterprise.

The investigation by the Nyssa Police Department was stymied in part because the Ontario School Board member who obtained the recording refused to cooperate with police, the record shows. The board member, Derrick Draper, said he had to consult his attorney before an interview and subsequently declined. He didn’t respond to written questions then submitted to him.

The tape hubbub came to the fore when Draper referred to the recording during a Jan. 22 school board meeting.

Jodi Elizondo, Ontario High School principal, subsequently complained to the Ontario Police Department that the recording may have been a crime. Elizondo’s husband is an Ontario officer, so the agency asked Nyssa police to handle the case. The investigation considered whether there was a crime in the recording and if there had been an effort to obstruct the investigation.

The Nyssa agency last week released its report by Lt. Don Ballou in response to a public records request from the Enterprise.

The report said Elizondo learned of what she described to police as a surreptitious recording of a Jan. 20 staff meeting after Draper sent out an email describing the meeting. According to the police report, Draper wrote to other board members that he had a copy of the recording that “a teacher gave to me.”

Draper used a personal email account instead of his school district email, the report indicated.

Ballou interviewed seven high school employees but couldn’t establish who had recorded and disseminated the tape. He met with Draper to learn the identity.

“Director Draper stated that he was not going to answer questions regarding this case and deferred me to speak with his lawyers instead,” Ballou reported.

He said he later consulted with the Malheur County District Attorney’s Office about whether there would be a crime of obstructing the investigation or interfering with a police officer “if that information was not provided.”

Dave Goldthorpe, Malheur County district attorney, notified police that, after consulting with the state Justice Department, any recording of a meeting conducted via Zoom would not be a crime.

Ballou subsequently ended his investigation.

Elizondo told the Enterprise by email that school officials haven’t determined who recorded the meeting and “we have no idea if other meetings have been recorded or shared.”

She said topics at the recorded staff meeting would not have become public but for Draper’s disclosures.

Contact editor Les Zaitz at [email protected].


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