At the July 11 meeting of the Silver Falls School Board, several board members expressed concern that member Todd White filed a complaint with the Oregon Ethics Commission without bringing the matter to a board meeting first. On June 15, two days after that month’s board meeting, White complained about the conveyance of 25 truckloads of dirt to the home of board chair, Tim Roth in the course of an artificial turf project on McGinnis Field in Silverton.
(see All The Dirt – June 23,2016 )
During the July meeting, Board member Ervin Stadeli reflected that he would like to see White censured, and Koch and board chair Wally Lierman also mentioned that they were close to considering censure for White.
Stadeli told White, “I think you’re a liability to the district, to the school board and to yourself.”
Censuring, says Lierman, does not remove a board member from office or impede his ability to serve. Rather, it “is an official condemnation, reprimand, or criticism that can be leveled at a board member by his peers and is a progression of managing questionable behavior of a board member… Censuring of a board member is typically used to distance a board from counterproductive behavior. It can also help guard board members and the board as a whole from liability resulting from a rogue member’s comments or actions.”
Lierman stresses that the school board “did not recommend the censure of Mr. White at this time, nor was an official motion made.”
White says he contacted the Oregon School Board Association (OSBA) and Oregon Ethics Commission staff prior to filing the complaint, and was not instructed by either to bring up the matter at a board meeting first.
“Filing the complaint broke no laws or district policy,” he says. “When I took my concerns to the Ethics Commission, they said they were very interested in looking at this issue. The OSBA said that the Ethics Commission is where this belonged, and that they were the final say.”
White characterizes the comments made at the July 11 meeting as “just an attempt for a few board members to try to twist the facts. Instead of asking Mr. Roth to explain himself, they tried to discredit me.” White says he has received phone calls “from people claiming to be part of watchdog groups suggesting that even threatening to censure me for reporting a crime violates whistleblower laws.” He adds that he has “no desire to go down that road.”
White says he doesn’t regret filing the complaint. “The support from the community has been overwhelming. The supportive phone calls and emails have out numbered the negative ones about 20:1. As an elected official, its my job to watch out for the public’s best interest, and make sure things are done legally and ethically.”
In recent weeks White has continued to learn details on the dirt transfer, including that at least 500 truck loads left McGinnis Field.
“In a nutshell, this is what the public sees,” he says, “25 truck loads of district property (dirt), valued at thousands of dollars are trucked to the board chair’s house, by the company that another board member [Stadeli] works for. We are told that these 25 truck loads are given to the board chair to save money. Meanwhile the other 475 truck loads go elsewhere. I guess they didn’t need to save money on those 475 truck loads. The money saved is minimal, and that was just a poor attempt to legitimize the illegal gift. Playing a shell game of giving the district property to someone else to give to the board chair certainly violates the spirit of the law, if it doesn’t break the law already.”
Board member Lierman says that the board’s consideration of censure for White “did not come about based only on this single issue,” though he did not elaborate. “Hopefully,” he says, “this is not an action that the board will need to pursue in the future.”
The video of the July 11 Silver Falls school board meeting can be seen here: