Resident files ethics complaint against West Linn-Wilsonville School Board
West Linn resident Karie Oakes filed an ethics complaint June 28 against the West Linn- Wilsonville School Board, arguing that the board made a decision to sell the Oppenlander property during an executive session. Executive session law prohibits final decisions from being made in closed meetings.
Specifically, the complaint states that the school board did not discuss the sale of the property — which was recommended by the district's Long Range Planning Committee — during any public sessions prior to announcing its intent May 28. Oakes cites two executive sessions that took place Feb. 8 and Feb 22 under ORS 192.660(2)(e) "to conduct deliberations with persons designated by the governing body to negotiate real property transactions," as well as the board's own statement about offering to sell the property to the city of West Linn "through an executive session process."
"The Board would have had to have made a decision on the (LRPC) recommendation before deliberating sale of the Oppenlander Property," Oakes said in the complaint. "That leaves the possibility that the Board decided in executive session on February 8 and or February 22 to concur with the Committee recommendation. Other possibilities would be that the Board held a meeting in private that was not properly noticed to the public or that the Board conducted an unlawful serial meeting by email or phone."
Due to the investigation by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission the school district has been advised by legal counsel to not provide comment to the media on the matter.
The possible sale of the property, which is located on Rosemont Road near the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been steeped in contention since the district announced its intent in May.
Right away, many community members expressed concern about the future of the land that's been a staple of youth sports for nearly 50 years.
Oakes wasn't the only community member to say that the board's process for making decisions regarding the sale lacked transparency. Others have questioned why they can't find the WL-WV Long Range Planning Committee's recommendation to sell the land in the meeting minutes and believe the process of selling the land to have been fast-tracked.
In an aim to halt the sale in its tracks, residents started a petition that garnered 500 signatures in the first 12 hours of being posted. That petition now has over 2,400 signatures.
Oakes took it a step further and filed a complaint against the school board with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.
In March 2020, the West Linn-Wilsonville School District tasked the Long Range Planning Committee with reviewing all district properties that were marked for potential new school locations and educational programs. Specifically the committee was asked to determine whether those properties still met the current and future needs of the district.
In a message to the community this past May, the district said the committee concluded in January 2021 that all but one of the district's properties — that one being Oppenlander — met those needs for school or educational program sites.
"The Board foisted its decision to classify the Oppenlander property as surplus on the public who was blindsided to hear about it when the Oppenlander statement was released in May, four months after the Committee made its recommendation," Oakes said in her complaint.
Oakes' complaint posits that it's unclear how or when the committee made the recommendation, given that committee meeting minutes are sparse. In her complaint, she also states that the board did not review, and thereby did not approve, the committee's recommendation in a regular meeting.
According to Susan Myers, an investigator at OGEC, the matter is currently under "preliminary review" and all information regarding the status of the complaint is confidential.
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