The Oregon school board has informed the Oregon City Federation of Teachers to vacate its office in the Wynn Center, owned by the school district, because the board never approved its lease.
Dave Shafer, president of the Oregon City Federation of Teachers, told the board at a meeting last month that he received an email from Dean Sandwisch, the district’s director of business affairs, after Easter vacation requesting the teachers’ union leave the premises.
Shafer said the group had been paying $100 per month to the district to lease the space.
“I asked Mr. Sandwisch before the meeting if we’ve been bad tenants, if we have not paid our bills, if there is a problem, if there is something we can do, is there a reason we’re not having any discussion before we’re being asked to vacate the premises?” said Shafer. “I’m a little bit concerned. I think we have been good tenants, we have paid our rent. I guess I just wanted to know what was the rationale behind asking us to vacate that facility. To my knowledge, it’s not full. There’s space. And we are paying customers. There’s been no talk of negotiating a higher rate.”
“I can answer that,” said Board President P.J. Kapfhammer. “You’re paying $100 per month. You’re not paying rent. Based on the space you’re using, if you can find anything comparable, I’d like to know where it’s at in this town. You can’t rent any kind of space for $100.”
“We weren’t ever approached to pay more,” said Shafer.
“Well, I look back and I don’t even know how this deal came about because it’s never been board approved that we can find,” said Kapfhammer.
“Are all the tenants approved at the Wynn Center? asked Shafer.
“I don’t know, “said Kapfhammer. “I would assume so. I’m pretty certain we have deals with everybody.”
“I have a signed lease,” said Shafer.
“We didn’t evict you,” said Kapfhammer. “We chose to non-renew. There’s a big difference. You’re not being evicted.”
“I’m concerned that there’s been no discussion. If it’s a matter of rent, Mr. Kapfhammer, which you just said it was, then we could have those discussions,” said Shafer.
“My biggest concern is when you start serving us with legal papers from our own address, maybe you should rent your own place and start serving us from down the road,” said Kapfhammer.
“We are renting our own place,” said Shafer.
“You’re not anymore after the end of this month,” said Kapfhammer. “So go somewhere else.”
“For the record,” said Shafer, “we were served with legal papers first.”
Ok, but when you serve me personally from our own address…” said Kapfhammer.
“So this is not a matter of being bad tenants, not paying our rent, doing damage to the facilities, and it’s not a matter of fact that you have a tenant that’s looking to move in and pay more rent, it’s not a matter of you have no space there for us?” asked Shafer.
“We don’t want you there anymore,” said Kapfhammer.
“That’s all I need to know,” said Shafer.
Kapfhammer said after the meeting that his relationship with Shafer has been strained since the union filed a lawsuit against the school board last month.
The lawsuit alleges a breach of the collective bargaining agreement to arbitrate a grievance by the union’s committee chairperson, who was reprimanded by the board for allegedly misusing the district’s inner-school email system for union business.
The lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by The Press, states that the union believes the collective bargaining agreement provides that the inner-school mail system, including the mailboxes, as well as e-mail, internet, and voicemail, may be used by the union to facilitate the dissemination of union communications and school-related material. The board has refused to proceed to arbitration on the grievance, according to the lawsuit.
Kapfhammer said he met with union officials for mediation, but the grievance could not be resolved.
Shafer said last week that the union moved its previous office last year after the building on Navarre Avenue was sold. He and Sandwisch then met to negotiate the $100 per month lease of the office in the Wynn Center.
“Mr. Sandwisch was fully aware of the whole thing. I told him we did not want to spend a lot of money. For the most part, we just needed a place to meet. He said `Fine,’ and we’ve been there pretty much a year. Most of what we lease is a storage facility, basically a closet in the building. We meet once per month in one of the old classrooms,” said Shafer.
He believes the lease will not be renewed because of the lawsuit, though he added that it could not be avoided.
“We firmly believe the use of the email system is a contract right. We believe that’s enshrined in the contract. We filed a grievance because one of our members sent out an email, but the board said it deserved a letter of reprimand. We couldn’t resolve it internally. We tried. Part of the process is you go to a third party, arbitration. I’m perfectly comfortable going to a third party, and if we’re wrong, we’re wrong. We want someone to decide for us. As president of the union, I have no choice on some things. I have to conform to the contract when I think it’s being violated.”
He would not comment on the upcoming contract negotiations with the board, though he said everything would be on the table. The three year contract expires on July 31. The first meeting with the board to set the ground rules of the negotiations is scheduled for May 13.
He expects the negotiations to go smoothly, and without any animosity.
“I consider P.J. a friend. This is just business. I have absolutely no ill will toward him,” said Shafer.