P.J. Kapfhammer, elected to the Oregon City Schools Board last November, denied making a threatening comment to school board member Diana Gadus at a policy meeting in the conference room of the administration building at approximately 4:30 p.m. on February 16.
Gadus filed an incident report with the school administration on Feb. 22 about the heated meeting.
Gadus states in her report that she and Kapfhammer were discussing contract renewals for the next board meeting when the verbal altercation occurred.
“During the discussion, Mr. Kapfhammer proceeded to talk more loudly to articulate his points. I continued to articulate my points equally as loud,” states Gadus in her report. “When my point of view/perspective did not line up with Mr. Kapfhammer’s, he became vulgar and said `F--- you, Diane,’ two times. We were each still seated in our seats around the table. Mr. Kapfhammer continued to change the direction of the conversation to try to influence my decision/perspective.”
Kapfhammer then got up and went towards the door, according to Gadus.
“I remained in my seat,” states Gadus. “Mr. Kapfhammer continued trying to intimidate me with his loud, argumentative, vulgar speech. He said, `I am going to kick your ass and I am going to keep kicking your ass until you quit and don’t run again.’ Mr. Kapfhammer implied that that he would continue to treat me in such a manner until I change what I feel is appropriate towards voting and decisions to what he or his perspective is or quit. When I felt safe and the situation de-escalated, I got up and went towards the door.” Kapfhammer, she added, continued to argue with her as she walked down the hallway and to the doors that led to the parking lot. “Mr. Kapfhammer continued his behavior in the doorway.”
Three unidentified people who were not in the meeting but nearby also filled out incident reports that stated they saw or heard Kapfhammer arguing with Gadus, but they could not make out the conversation. Their names were blacked out in their reports.
At the school board meeting on Tuesday, Kapfhammer denied threatening Gadus. He also said he was not given an opportunity to respond to Gadus’s incident report because he was unaware she had even filled one out.
“There’s no statement from me about any of this,” he said to board members at the meeting, “because I wasn’t part of the process. After this disagreement happened, I was never involved in giving a statement because I was never told.”
Kapfhammer said Board President Dick Gabel had contacted the district’s attorney and had followed the procedure to file incident reports “but never told me about it.”
“I never got a chance to make my statement. This has hurt me personally,” said Kapfhammer.
Gabel then called for a recess and cut the audio of the meeting while Kapfhammer continued his comments amid shouts of “Let him speak,” from some members of the audience.
“Ninety percent of the people in this room want to hear what’s going on right now. After I’m done, we can go forward with the business of the school. This isn’t about the school, but about me and what you guys did to me,” said Kapfhammer.
“Nobody did anything to you,” said Gadus.
“Did I personally tell you that I was going to kick your ass and kick your ass until you quit?” Kapfhammer asked Gadus.
“It was implied,” said Gadus, “that I would have to change my vote. You were using bullying tactics.”
“Because every time I say something,” Kapfhammer said to Gadus, “you talk over me.”
“They were your words,” said Gadus.
Members of the audience asked Kapfhammer to “speak up” after the audio was cut.
Kapfhammer characterized the heated discussion he had with Gadus at the policy meeting as a “disagreement.”
“I never once told her I was going to kick her ass,” said Kapfhammer. Instead, he said he told Gadus that he had been “kicking your ass since the campaign because you keep doing the same thing over and over.”
“And that if you keep doing it, you’ll be unelectable come the next campaign,” Kapfhammer continued.
Kapfhammer was also critical that the incident reports had been leaked to the media and that he believed there was a conspiracy to ruin his reputation.
“I don’t care if you pile up on me. When I ran, I knew this was going to happen. I care about these kids so much. I don’t care if I take it on the chin. You’re not going to play one way against me. You want to roughhouse me, beat me up in the press, that’s fine, but it cuts both ways. I have three daughters at home. And it crosses the line when I have to go home and look at my little girls because I said I was going to beat a girl up,” said Kapfhammer, choking back tears. “It never happened. These people have abused their power for too long.”
Kapfhammer overcame a flier distributed during his campaign for a seat on the board last fall that noted several brushes he had with the law, mostly while he was young. He was able to defend himself against his past by saying he is now a successful businessman with a family who contributes time and money to youth programs.
Kapfhammer at the meeting on Tuesday said he was frustrated that his record was continually being brought up in the media, particularly since, he alleged, that there were two board members besides himself who had previous scrapes with the law, but he did not identify them.
Kapfhammer and board member Jeff Ziviski were elected to the board last November after campaigning for more transparency on the board and against the board’s approval of pay hikes for administrators at a time when busing for Clay High School students had been eliminated. Many in the community had been critical of the raises, including a $13,000 hike for Superintendent Mike Zalar. The board later approved a shuttle bus service for Clay students.
Gadus, Gabel, and board member Carol Molnar have voted together on most issues before the board while Kapfhammer and Ziviski have mostly voted together in the minority.