Area board members reappointed after resigning over state rule

All five members of school boards in Arock, Jordan Valley and Juntura and four out of seven members of the Nyssa School Board were reappointed after quitting amid growing concern about a new ethics requirement.

The resignations came ahead of a state mandate that, for the first time, school board members file economic disclosure forms with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.

When the majority of a school board quits, the Malheur Education Service District Board has the authority to appoint replacements. 

In a special meeting Tuesday, April 25, the education district board voted to simply put the people who resigned back into those seats, sparing them the need to comply with the disclosure law this year, according to a draft copy of the Tuesday meeting minutes. 

The same played out in neighboring Harney County, where the entire school boards of Pine Creek, Suntex and Diamond resigned, according to Shannon Criss, superintendent of the Harney County Education Service District. In addition, Criss said Fields, Drewsey and Double O school board members resigned and have since been reappointed. 

In Nyssa, the two school board members who did not resign, Don Ballou, who is also the chief of the Nyssa Police Department and Susan Ramos, filed financial disclosures with the state ethics commission ahead of the April 15 deadline. 

The impact of the resignations could have meant that those school boards without a quorum would have been without a governing body to consider budgets, approve contracts or make hiring decisions. 

A proposal to exempt members on small school boards is pending at the Oregon Legislature. 

The core issue is a state filing called the statement of economic interest. The forms are intended to be a guard against public officials using their positions for personal gain. The statements require public officials to list their significant income sources but not amounts. 

An estimated 6,000 public officials had to file their disclosures by April 15. 

The disclosure law already covered many local officials, such as city councilors and planning commission members. 

Alesha Munk, a Nyssa board member, who stepped down, said she did so because of the new requirement. However, she said she would not seek a reappointment because she has moved out of the area. 

“In a community like Nyssa,” Munk said in a Tuesday, April 25 email, “if someone was receiving bribes or receiving an inflated price for selling land to the district – people would know. Everyone talks about everyone, for good and for bad, in small towns.” 

According to the state ethics commission, public officials “are required to list any businesses in which they or a member of their household maintained a position as an officer or director during the preceding calendar year.” They also must “list all sources of income (not the amount of income) that made up 10% or more of their total annual household income.”

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