Ontario School Board members (from left) Mike Blackaby, Eric Evans, Blanca Rodriguez, Derrick Draper and Renae Corn. (The Enterprise/File)
ONTARIO - Mike Blackaby, an Ontario insurance man and longtime community volunteer, resigned from the Ontario School Board on Monday, July 20, one month before school resumes.
The resignation of the board chairman followed a contentious closed meeting where the school board informally split 2-2 not to share with the public a report into board member misconduct. One board member, Eric Evans, who was a target of misconduct complaints last year, recused himself from the matter. He remained in the meeting although he has previously threatened to sue the school district over the earlier allegations.
The board met in an executive session where the public isn’t allowed.
Blackaby said in a statement Tuesday that he resigned his board position, which he has held since 2012, after the meeting.
“In January of 2020 I was falsely accused, along with Superintendent Nikki Albisu, of bad behavior and not following board policy,” Blackaby wrote in a statement.
“I believe the public has a right to know the outcome of the investigations and an accounting for the thousands of dollars spent on attorney fees,” he wrote.
Blackaby has served as chair since July 2019, and owns the Blackaby Insurance Agency.
“I support, and will continue to support, the students, administration, faculty and staff,” Blackaby said in his statement. “As most everyone is aware, there has been continued conflict on the school board for over a year.”
The board meeting was announced as a closed-door session to deal with pending litigation. However, board members discussed instead whether to disclose a report into allegations made last year against two board members.
The news media is allowed to attend such sessions with the understanding nothing would be disclosed about what happens at the meeting if it is conducted for the purpose told to the public. An Enterprise reporter attended Monday’s meeting and the newspaper elected to report on the discussion because it was outside the legal justification for keeping the public out, according to Publisher Les Zaitz.
The report at issue traces back to July 2019, when an unsigned letter stated to be from 14 of the school district's 18 administrators accused Directors Eric Evans and Derrick Draper of intimidation and racism.
Evans announced in January that he might file a tort claim to put the district on notice he intended to sue for libel as a result of the letter.
The school board in turn retained a Portland-area law firm, the Hungerford Law Firm, to investigate the letter and its claims. The report concluded there was no wrongdoing, according to statements Monday night by Blackaby and Directors Renae Corn and Blanca Rodriguez.
In a polling of the board members, Blackaby and Rodriguez favored sharing the report with the public while Corn and Draper were opposed.
News tip? Contact reporter Aidan McGloin at [email protected] or at 541-235-1005.
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