Recall vote set in struggle over Baker school board

The Associated Press /

BAKER CITY — Voters in an eastern Oregon school district will weigh in next month on the struggle between a school board member elected at 19 and his fellow board members, who disciplined him for talking about confidential matters.

Supporters of Kyle Knight, now 21, have won a recall election against two members of the Baker School District board who voted in April to censure Knight and cut him off from student and employee information, the Baker City Herald reported.

Knight, an Oregon National Guard member and online college student, has struggled with other board members and Superintendent Walt Wegener from the get-go.

“I told the board when I was elected, ‘Look at you. You have a 19-year-old on the board,’” he told The Oregonian. “When your teenagers are beating out your incumbents, you know you’re in trouble.”

The crisis point came in the spring, when he told reporters about a district employee suspected of embezzlement.

School board members said the disclosure violated his obligation to keep personnel information confidential and raised legal risks for the district and board. The censure motion passed 3-2 barred him from confidential information and committees. He was told to leave one meeting.

The worker later was given a one-year sentence for theft.

The recall election was directed at two board members, who are called directors: Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson. They along with the superintendent and the district itself were named in a federal suit Knight filed after the censure action. He seeks $500,000 and alleges the board violated his free speech and other constitutional rights.

The two board members faced a choice of resigning or going through with the recall election. They’re fighting for the positions.

“Need for censure stems from the fiscal and legal liability to the district by the unethical and illegal deeds of director Kyle Knight,” Burroughs said in a statement filed for the election. “The majority of the board acted to protect the district, its staff and students. I believe I was right to censure Kyle Knight, although I found no enjoyment in the process.”

County Clerk Tami Green said ballots for the election go out Nov. 23 and will be counted Dec. 11.

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