Eric Evans, Ontario School Board member, was censured Tuesday, April 20, by the board for his conduct towards Superintendent Nikki Albisu. (The Enterprise/Rachel Parsons)
ONTARIO – The Ontario School Board Tuesday night condemned the conduct of two of its members, voting to do so after Derrick Draper, one of those facing censure, quit on the spot and walked out of the session.
The board said that Draper and board member Eric Evans violated board policies in their conduct toward Superintendent Nikki Albisu.
The board also agreed to join in mediation between board members and district administrators – a step it has rebuffed in the past.
Secrecy shrouded the process leading to the extraordinary board action against its own.
Board Chair Renae Corn said the board wouldn’t release the complaint against the board, filed by Albisu, and wouldn’t release the investigative report and findings considered by the board.
Instead, the board met in executive – or closed session – to discuss the report and what action to take. A reporter from the Enterprise attended the session but is generally restricted from disclosing what happened under Oregon law.
The actions Tuesday follow years of tension between some school district administrators and board members, primarily Evans and Draper.
Corn said she hoped mediation now embraced by the board would get board members and administrators to “focus on the work that needs to get done” and “focus on doing what’s right for the kids.”
Draper has been a flashpoint on the board for his sometimes contentious confrontations in public meetings with school executives.
He resigned about a half hour after the board went into closed session to consider the investigative findings. He declared he was resigning immediately and left the room.
Later, Corn said that Draper “didn’t give a reason for his resignation.”
Draper is on the May ballot, seeking re-election to the seat. It was unclear Tuesday night whether he still intends to pursue the seat he just quit.
In its public session, the board gave little clue to what triggered the latest investigation. But its action to condemn two board members signaled evidence of misconduct had been uncovered.
The board said in its censure motion that Draper and Evans “acted in a manner inconsistent with the policies of this board and the district by engaging in conduct towards Superintendent Albisu” that violated nondiscrimination policies and its contract with the superintendent.
The discrimination policy states, “The district prohibits retaliation and discrimination against an individual who has opposed any discrimination act or practice.”
DOCUMENT: Nondiscrimination policy
The board’s motion also cited Draper separately for acting “in a manner inconsistent with the policies of this board and the district by engaging in conduct towards Superintendent Albisu that violated board policy.”
The board cited in that instance its “Standard of Conduct,” a policy which directs that “board members will treat other board members, the superintendent, staff, and the public with dignity and courtesy and will provide an opportunity for all parties to be heard with due respect for their opinions.”
DOCUMENT: Board Standards of Conduct
The board members said in their motion that they “do hereby condemn the conduct and actions of Directors Draper and Evans, and by passage of this Motion to Censure, do hereby censure Directors Draper and Evans.”
By then, Draper was gone and Evans recused himself from voting. Corn and board members Blanca Rodriguez and Craig Geddes passed the motion.
A censure carries no penalty and doesn’t impair a board member’s service.
Evans late Tuesday issued a statement to the Enterprise.
“Many factors come into play with each decision I make, and I don’t personally believe that retaliation has ever been one of them,” he wrote. “That said, I am always humbled when someone lays judgment on me. I will certainly take the time to reflect on the choices I have made. At this point, I think it’s important to remind myself of the reasons I am on the Board. Those reasons are to represent the needs of kids and this community. I look forward to continuing that important work.”
Draper and Evans have come in for criticism of their conduct before, though the board didn’t act on a previous investigation.
In 2019, an attorney concluded that Draper violated board policies in his behavior towards school administrators and during school board meetings. The findings came after 14 district administrators delivered to the board a 26-page letter with allegations against Draper and Evans. The report concluded there was no substantiation for allegations against Evans for discrimination.
Evans subsequently put the Ontario School District on notice he intended to sue, claiming harassment by school administrators. An investigation ordered by the board into those allegations concluded in 2020 that there was no substantiation for his claims.
In both earlier investigations, the school board released to the public the investigative reports.
This time, board members opted for secrecy.
Corn last week said the board would not release any of the complaints filed against the board in the past year. The Enterprise sought the complaints through a public records request. Corn said the complaints represented “internal advisory” communications that wouldn’t be released.
After Tuesday’s board session, Corn also said the board would keep secret the latest investigative report that contains the evidence of misconduct by Evans and Draper. Corn said the board was advised by its attorney not to release any information leading to the censure.
TEXT OF CENSURE MOTION:
The Ontario School District Board of Directors understands that it is the Board’s responsibility to monitor the behavior of each Board Member acting in the capacity of Board Member. Board Members have a public responsibility to conduct themselves responsibly with respect to interactions with school district employees, including the Superintendent. This public responsibility does not allow Board Members to engage in conduct that violates Board policy regarding interactions with District employees.
In consideration of the above, the Board of Directors has determined that Directors Evans and Draper, elected members of the Board of Directors, acted in a manner inconsistent with the policies of this Board and the District by engaging in conduct towards Superintendent Albisu that violated Board Policy AC- Nondiscrimination and the Superintendent/Board Operating Agreement.
The Board of Directors has further determined that Director Draper acted in a manner inconsistent with the policies of this Board and the District by engaging in conduct towards Superintendent Albisu that violated Board Policy- BBF (Board member Standards of Conduct).
In consideration thereof, the Board of Directors of the Ontario School District do hereby condemn the conduct and actions of Directors Draper and Evans, and by passage of this Motion to Censure, do hereby censure Directors Draper and Evans.
As a result, the Board will take the District’s “SafeSchools Nondiscrimination” training and will engage in mediation with Superintendent Albisu to mitigate the impact of these findings.
Contact Editor Les Zaitz by email at [email protected].
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