The missing minutes

On the morning of May 27th, the McKenzie School Board held an executive session to review applications submitted for the superintendent’s position. Their review took about two hours. I sat in on the meeting because media is allowed to attend as a representative of the public.

When the board finished they adjourned and reconvened in open session. What happened next was a bit informal. Normally in such a situation, the board has a prepared statement that could be read, modified a bit if some specific language needed to be adjusted, and then voted on. This time they didn’t.

Instead, there was a reference to checking the proper spelling of the names of the four candidates who had been selected. And, it was agreed the four would be contacted and invited to the district for formal interviews. Then the board voted to do so.

Or did they?

Under Oregon Statutes: “The governing body of a public body shall provide for the sound, video or digital recording or the taking of written minutes of all its meetings. Neither a full transcript nor a full recording of the meeting is required, except as otherwise provided by law, but the written minutes or recording must give a true reflection of the matters discussed at the meeting and the views of the participants. All minutes or recordings shall be available to the public within a reasonable time after the meeting.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my tape recorder with me. And this board does not make sound, video or digital records of its meetings.

Back at my office I emailed the district requesting the proper spelling of the candidate’s names, where they lived, and their current position.

An email reply stated the information hadn’t been given to the board secretary yet but when she had it she would forward it. So I waited, expecting to get the info in time to include it in the edition of the paper that would be on the press Tuesday night. That didn’t happen.

There was no response on Wednesday. On Thursday, I was instructed to contact the board vice chair - at work by phone or by email - and did so without getting the answers.

I believe I know who the four candidates are, where they’re from and where they work. I did hear a board member say in open session that they weren’t interested in releasing the names, but I didn’t hear that stated as part of the motion.

So what’s going on? I’m not a big fan of conspiracy theories. I know the board has spent an awful lot of time doing their jobs. Going to an 8 a.m. meeting on a Tuesday morning can be a stretch. Perhaps this was just a fumble.

But, getting no response to a public information request – particularly regarding a motion that was probably two sentences long – doesn’t sit well. And curiously, no communication from the school district has stated that the names couldn’t be made public.

It seemed to me on Saturday that the, “All minutes or recordings shall be available to the public within a reasonable time after the meeting” section of the law needed to be adhered to. That’s why I filed a complaint with the Lane County District Attorney to look into the matter.

When he does, we’ll share his opinion.


McKenzie River Reflections

McKenzie River Reflections is the weekly newspaper serving Oregon's McKenzie River Valley. Available by mail for $23/yr in Lane County, $29/yr outside Lane. Digital subscriptions are $23/yr. Subscribe at: Purchase copies online at: Read about area communities including Cedar Flat, Walterville, Camp Creek, Leaburg, Vida, Nimrod, Finn Rock, Blue River, Rainbow and McKenzie Bridge.