[LCSD] The Board settles with Bo Yates

From the DH:

LEBANON – The Lebanon School Board on Tuesday voted 4-0 to give former high school athletic director Bo Yates $15,000 to settle his year-old tort claim against the district.

The settlement, which Yates and Board Chairman Josh Wineteer both signed that night, clears all claims and demands on the district. It denies liability but includes a letter from the district that states “regret for the miscommunication” that prompted Yates’ claim.

Board member Chris Fisher was absent from the meeting.

Wineteer said following the vote the board came to the settlement amount “on the recommendation of counsel.” He made no other comment, saying the settlement document “speaks for itself.”

I have followed this on and off, so it’s possible that I missed some relevant piece of information.  That said, this came as something of a surprise to me.  In fact, the more I think about it, the less sense it makes.  Let me try and explain:

Yates was the LHS AD for a year.  That was, to the best of my knowledge, the length of his contract.  Yates claims a verbal commitment of 2-3 years.  I was unaware that a verbal commitment was binding; neither has, to the best of my knowledge, former Lebanon Superintendent Jim Robinson weighed in on this – at least publicly.

With little warning, in July 2007, Robinson informed Yates that his AD contract would not be renewed, and that he was needed full-time at Seven Oaks.  This seemed reasonable to me, given that Robinson did not think Sansom was doing a good job, and Yates was the Assistant Principal.  Yates was upset and filed suit.

Lots of other stuff happened.  It seems irrelevant, but again, there could be a missing fact or two that might change things.

Last night, the LCSD Board decided to settle with Yates by paying him $15,000, or a complete year’s AD extra-duty pay.  Wineteer directed people to the settlement – which can be found online here – but the settlement sheds no light on why the board made the decision.

I think that’s more or less the chain of events as I understand them; if I have something wrong, please let me know in the comments.  That said, I have two problems with this outcome:

1.  It looks like a mediocre decision (on the merits) at best, and a terrible one at worst.  I see no evidence that Yates had a reasonable claim to a full year’s salary.  I might have bought a few months, or even just a month, given when Robinson told him, but a full year?  I don’t see the evidence for it.  His contract was for a year, and while I could be wrong, I’m not convinced a verbal commitment like Yates claims he had would be binding.  Additionally, given that the LCSD is facing a budget shortfall, it makes no sense for the board to spend any money they don’t have to… which is where this becomes a mediocre decision at best.  It is possible that the advice of legal counsel was something like “it will be cheaper to settle for $15,000 than go to court even if the LCSD wins.”  In such a case, I would at least understand why the Board made the decision they made:  It was the cheapest one possible.  However, even that course of action suggests that all one has to do to get money from the Board is file a barely-plausible suit and make it more cost-effective to settle.  In essence, the best interpretation of this outcome is that the Board just got blackmailed – and that Yates cares more about the money than the well-being of the LCSD (disclaimer:  Noting that the same is true of someone else does not invalidate, in and of itself, my claim).

None of that, of course, sheds a good light on the Board.  I guess the one outstanding question I have for the Board – and Russ McUne in particular – is why they really voted to settle.

The worst interpretation, of course, is that the Board just gave away $15,000 for no good reason.  Which brings me to my second point:

2.  The second problem I have with this outcome is that Debi Shimmin voted for it.  It is well known that she and Yates are good friends, and she just voted for a very mediocre settlement for $15,000 in his favor.  It would been really, really easy – and not changed the outcome at all – for her to abstain from this vote.

Note that I am not saying Shimmin violated any conflict of interest laws or regulations, at least not formally.  However, I am saying that her voting on this could be mistaken for a giveaway to a known friend of hers, and that her choosing to abstain would have been a better, more ethical option.  The fact that she didn’t isn’t surprising given the recent history of the LCSD Board, but it is disappointing.  And it does leave the door open for someone else to make the claim that her casting a vote on this matter was wrong.

Bottom line:  Without more transparency about why the decision was made, I am left with the impression that the Board behaved unprofessionally – again.  While I hope the voters of Lebanon choose to vote for Board members who pledge to follow good processes  and act like professionals come the next election, I have this suspicion that they are going to vote for whoever they think heaps the most scorn on open, deliberative and thoughtful decisionmake processes.

Sigh.  I’m going to start telling people I’m from Corvallis.  Heck, I was born here.  It’s close enough.

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3 Comments on “[LCSD] The Board settles with Bo Yates”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    It is so nice that LSD can give away money like this while their classified employees have no contract and are given proposals which keep them well below the average compensation for the area. LSD does NOT care about the students. If they did, they would offer decent wages and benefits which would attract and keep skilled employees.
    I hope Yates, Robinson and all the board members realize the negative impact of their behavior on the kid in Lebanon.

  2. anonymous Says:

    But if he was removed in July, wouldn’t that have been into the second year of his “yearly” contract? Does the contract follow the school year which was July 1 – June 30? And to have the job just taken away from him in the second year, could he have a contract claim?

  3. Dennis Says:

    Anon @ 2:49 – I think you’ve hit on what I consider Yates’ strongest argument. However, I am also operating under the assumption that he signed a one-year contract. Continuing to work after that contract ended in his AD capacity implied a certain amount of trust on his part towards the LCSD Administration, and yes, it stinks that he was told one thing verbally only to see another in writing, but even under the best of circumstances, I can’t see how that translates to paying for a whole year. Again, maybe a few months, but that’s it.

    Anon @ 7:05 – Damned good point. Not terribly surprising, and in all fairness, the dollar amounts are going to be radically different, but symbolism is important, and on this issue, the board just sent a big signal that Yates is more important than the classified staff. Very bad idea.

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