Two school board members seek public release of documents
Two members of the Scappoose School Board filed a public records request in late June to obtain documents they say could contain notes about decision-making outside of open session — decisions they say they were excluded from.
School board members Lisa Maloney and Tim Brooks filed a request for public records in late June seeking copies of emails or hard copy correspondences between members of the school board, district employees and the district's legal counsel, the Hungerford Law Firm.
Maloney said she and Brooks are attempting to discover how the board approved a consulting contract with outgoing Interim Superintendent Paul Peterson when it had never been discussed at any public meeting, including closed executive sessions.
"We were trying to find out how other members of the board decided on the Paul Peterson contract," Maloney said.
In June, the Scappoose School Board voted 5 to 2 in a public meeting to approve a $24,000 consulting contract with Peterson. The contract allows Peterson to continue working with the district as a consultant for two months to aid incoming permanent superintendent, Tim Porter.
The overall cost to the school district will be $36,000, including benefits like PERS payments and health insurance coverage.
At the time Maloney accused a majority of the members of the Scappoose School Board of making a decision outside of a public meeting to approve the contract, and said no public discussions were held on the topic. She alleged that she and Brooks had been intentionally left out of the loop.
"We were not made aware of anything and I found out there was an invoice (from legal counsel) to the school district for phone calls and emails on March 25 to (Lager) and Deanna Rask," Maloney said. "So, I knew there were emails and Tim and I wanted to find out what the emails said because there was no information that was disclosed to Tim and I, and no information disclosed to the public until
the June board meeting."
Ultimately, the Scappoose School District denied public disclosure of the documents Maloney and Brooks sought, citing attorney-client privilege. On July 10, however, the Scappoose School Board met in executive session to discuss records exempt from public disclosure.
"We wanted an email chain between attorney and board chair," Brooks said several days after the meeting, although he did not divulge information contained in the email chain. "That's what we asked for, and that's what we got."
While Brooks and Maloney said they could not disclose what was said in the closed meeting due to confidentiality restrictions, Maloney clarified that during open session at the July 10 meeting she refused to vote on board chair and vice chair designations, based on what she views as a lack of transparency overall on the board.
"My belief is that when there's a lack of transparency, if it's left unchecked, the behavior will continue," Maloney said.
Maloney also added that she and Brooks requested the information contained in the public records to be released to the public, but that request was denied.
"The entire Paul Peterson contract ordeal lacks transparency by a majority of the board," Maloney said. "Information was concealed from me and Tim Brooks, and the public. So we are still requesting the information be released publicly ... I believe as always the truth always prevails and will come out."
The Spotlight also requested public email records to
and from Lager from March to determine if he and other board members had made a decision outside of a public setting.
The request generated an estimated up-front fee of up to $300 prior to the district's processing of the records request, which could result in even greater fees.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)