Oregon Mayor Mike Seferian will no longer allow police officers to be at school board meetings after he learned that the city is footing the bill.
“I found out that has been going on for quite some time,” said Seferian. “I went to a school board meeting prior to the election last November when a lot of people questioned the school board for giving raises to administrators. I noticed then there were a couple of officers at the meeting. Police have been going to school board meetings for several months.”
He and Administrator Mike Beazley had met with acting chief Paul Magdich to put an end to it.
“We had an understanding with Magdich that we were not going to provide officers. If the Oregon schools wish to have police at their meetings, they should pay for it themselves, just like they do for basketball games or other events,” said Seferian. “We had assumed that wasn’t’ going to happen anymore. But I found out school officials did request it again at a board meeting on Jan. 5.”
New Police Chief Mike Navarre was apparently unaware that the department was not supposed to provide officers at school board meetings anymore, said Seferian.
“When I found out it had happened again last week, Beazley and I told Chief Navarre that that wouldn’t happen anymore,” said Seferian. “If the schools want officers at the board meetings, there has to be some kind of reason, like a threat was made. We’re not going to take officers off road patrols and put them at a school board meeting for no apparent reason.”
Uniformed officers have been at the meetings since last summer, around the time when the media received political brochures that showed school board candidate P.J. Kapfhammer had a criminal past, mostly misdemeanors he committed as a youth, according to Seferian. Kapfhammer, who won a seat on the school board in November, ran a campaign that was critical of the board for giving raises to administrators, including a $13,000 pay hike to Superintendent Mike Zalar, at a time when deep cuts had been made to the budget, including the elimination of busing for Clay High School students.
Kapfhammer confirmed to The Press that two police officers came in separate cruisers to the school board’s Jan. 5 organizational meeting, which included a five hour retreat for board members. Both officers stood at the back of the room, he said.
“It was quite an interesting meeting,” said Kapfhammer of the first meeting he attended as a new board member.
Kapfhammer said he believed officers may have been there to throw him out of the meeting if an argument got heated.
“They don’t have the power to throw me out of the meeting. They can’t make me leave the meeting. I recommend highly that Dr. Zalar and the board research what their powers are,” said Kapfhammer. “The officers have been at the meetings after I stirred up the pot,” he said, regarding his vocal opposition to the administrative raises at previous meetings before he was elected to the board. “I’m not going to accuse them of bringing the police there just for me, but I think the message was loud and clear,” he said, regarding the possibility of having him thrown out of the meeting.
School board member Jeff Ziviski, who also won a seat on the board last November after campaigning against the administrative raises, thought the police presence was unwarranted.
“There’s no need for any police officers to be present at school board meetings because there’s nothing that’s going to happen,” said Ziviski. “There’s no need. I wasn’t asked my opinion if we needed police protection at this meeting. It was an organizational meeting. I don’t know whose idea it was to bring in police officers. But I’m going to look into it and see if the district did pay for any police protection. It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars that could better be used toward the education of students and for tutors to help increase our test scores.”
Zalar told The Press that the board requested there be police at regular meetings at Clay High School since last spring/summer “when there were several acts of violence that occurred at school board meetings nationally.”
“The police presence at the board meetings is intended to be more of a deterrent than anything else,” said Zalar.
The board, he said, has not received any threats of violence.
“To my knowledge, no board member (or myself) have been threatened with an act of violence,” he said.
“From now on,” said Seferian, “the school board is going to have to convince Chief Navarre that police should be at the meetings if they want them there.” If not, he added, the board will have to forego police at the meetings, or pay for the officers.
“I, and probably every homeowner, would love to have police officers parked outside their houses for free. You can have that, if you want to pay for that.”