What if they had a revolution and nobody reported it? OregonPEN – Vol. 1 No. 25, 8 August 2015

By Lisa Nuss, OregonPEN

In a stunning move — that may be a first for Oregon – the staff of a state agency have published a vote of no confidence in their executive director. In April 2015, TSPC staff gave legislators a copy of a 15-page memo written to their union titled “Request for Appointment of New Executive Director.” The memo is sent by a “Majority of Staff of Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC)” and TSPC staff assured legislators that a majority of staff have signed their names to this memo, although names were not disclosed in the copy given to OregonPEN.

If the data, presented in great detail with dates and names and specific budget information, is accurate, the memo paints the picture of an executive director who treats a public agency and its funds as her own personal fiefdom and treasury. These are details that only inside personnel could know. The memo makes clear that TSPC commissioners have stayed at bay, presumably as part of the executive director’s design to shun any real oversight.

If even a portion of these details prove to be accurate, they would corroborate the testimony given to the Oregon House Education Committee last spring by educators describing the harassment and incompetence they have experienced at the hands of TSPC; the memo’s claims are also consistent with the BOLI findings of substantial evidence of employment discrimination at TSPC.

 Does TSPC Director Chamberlain Keep Commission at Bay?      

The memo states that the last time a TSPC commissioner set foot inside the TSPC office was in Fall 2011. The then-commission chair came of his own accord on a day that Executive Director Vickie Chamberlain was absent. When Chamberlain later found out about the unannounced commissioner visit, Chamberlain was “extremely upset.” The memo goes on to say, “No commissioner has since visited the agency to talk with staff or watch us work.”

If this is true, over the last four years the commission that is supposed to oversee the agency in fact knows nothing about the agency – except what Executive Director Vickie Chamberlain tells them.

 The Memo further notes that Chamberlain only sends out board meeting packets a few days in advance. When Ms. Chamberlain came to the agency in 2002, the meeting packets were routinely sent one month in advance. Under Chamberlain’s leadership, that shrunk to weeks and now is at days. Whether by procrastination or design, a few days’ notice does not give members of a voluntary commission, most of whom are full-time educators, enough time to seriously consider material before the commission.

A typical commission meeting will include review of proposed changes in Oregon’s overly-complex licensing rules, along with dozens of discipline cases for which the commission has to decide whether and what kind of enforcement action to take. If it’s true that the executive director only sends the meeting packets days ahead of the meetings, this delay ensures the commission is forced to rely heavily on the executive director’s recommendations.

TSPC Director Appears to Churn Staff like Commission-based Brokers Churn Stocks

Again, presuming the details presented by a purported majority of TSPC staff are true, the agency posts a 63% turnover rate from 2002, when Chamberlain became executive director, to the present. That number is grossly high, by any measure.

We don’t have access to average turnover within Oregon agencies, nor have we adjusted for any changes due to the recession. However, for some comparison points, in 2011 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Government agencies and employers experienced the lowest level of employee turnover, at 1.4%. The construction industry posted a 7% turnover rate for employees which was the highest level of employee turnover. In 2006, the average turnover rate in the government sector nationwide 8.2%.

While high turnover rates are serious problems for any employer, public or private, longevity among staff would be especially vital at TSPC given that Oregon maintains a bizarrely complex teacher licensing system with an unusually high number of licensing classifications.

The TSPC memo included a listing of staff that were fired, laid off or quit from 2002-present. The memo acknowledges this is based on staff recollections and not confirmed by the Department of Administrative Services (DAS). (OregonPEN is contacting key personnel listed to verify details, and contacting DAS to see what we can confirm.)

Two of the key positions in an agency that licenses, in addition to the executive director, would be the deputy director and the director of licensing. Looking through the memo’s list of employee turnover, since Ms. Chamberlain took over as executive director in 2002, at least two deputy directors have resigned, one before 2005, and one in the 2009-2011 period after one year.

More concerning might be the turnover of licensing director – since the agency’s licensing backlog is among the worst in the country (staff say it’s the worst).

  • In the 2002-2005 period,
    • One licensing director retired early
    • One licensing director was terminated without notice
  • In the 2006-2008 period,
    • One director of licensing was terminated via a voice message
  • In the 2009-2011 period,
    • One licensing director was laid off
  • In 2012,
    • One licensing director was laid off

In the 13 years Ms. Chamberlain has been executive director, she has gone through five licensing directors, and appears to now be on her sixth. If history continues, Number Six won’t last longer than two years, in an agency that has been a licensing disaster for the state’s 60,000 K-12 teachers.

How many more licensing directors must come and go through that agency before someone figures out the problem may be the person who hires and manages them – the executive director?

Near the end of the memo, the staff beg anyone who reads the memo to come visit the agency and see for themselves what goes on. The memo reads like the sad cry of abused children pleading for the DHS to come see what happens behind closed doors.
 
TSPC’s Extreme Inefficiency and Waste

Details emerge in the memo that could be a Bureaucracy 101 lesson in “How to Gerrymander a State Budget.” Many of these details are confirmed by this spring’s Ways & Means hearings in the lengthy go-rounds between the angry legislators and Ms. Chamberlain.

The memo tells of ordering a higher-level salaried person to cover the duties of a low-level position, because opening the low-level position would require recalling an employee who got in the cross-hairs of the executive director. This move leaves the higher level work undone, and uses public funds to overpay for completion of the lower-level work.

The memo also tells of a lower-level position the executive director classified as a management position, allegedly to “protect the position from review by the union.”

The staff memo lays out story after story of an executive director who practices management by whimsy – creating work-arounds to punish civil employees she can’t fire, and unfairly promoting those who go along with her machinations. If the claimed 63% turnover is accurate, or even half accurate, then finding ways to lay people off and work them out of class seems to be a passion of this executive director.

The memo details numerous decisions, that are easily verifiable, that make no financial sense or business sense.

If the agency were functioning, one might give a director some discretion and leeway – after all, at that level they are presumed not to need micromanaging. But with an agency that forces teachers to wait longer than most any other state to get their licenses, and consistently mismanages discipline actions, personnel and budget issues can and should be under scrutiny.

The details in this TSPC staff memo create an impression that is hard to rebut – that the executive director’s mismanagement may well have created the backlog that now exists.

Ms. Chamberlain has often attempted to lay blame for the licensing backlog on her licensing directors – but it appears she never keeps any of them for much longer than two years. TV Psychologist Dr. Phil might ask her, “How’s that excuse still workin’ for ya’?” The answer in Oregon, sadly, is that it’s been working for her for over a decade and it’s still working. A few legislators on Ways & Means who have been around long enough to see a pattern have started to catch on – one even called her out in this spring’s hearing, telling Chamberlain he’s heard her excuses before.

At the time of the TSPC staff memo, March 19th, 2015, the agency’s own website stated that it was currently processing license requests from 11/10/2014, which means the agency takes 19 weeks to issue a license.

The claims of inefficiency and waste, if true, are stomach churning in themselves. TSPC is fee-based, which means its costs and the directors’ salary are paid from the fees teachers pay for their license. Many would agree Oregon’s teachers are over-worked and underpaid – should we add to their insult by wasting their hard-earned money the way we appear to be doing?
 
TSPC Director Shows Disdain for Teachers

Of all the disturbing claims in this 15-page memo, most disheartening is the disrespectful and degrading treatment that Ms. Chamberlain is recorded to have dished out to educators.

The memo states that the TSPC Director repeatedly makes changes in crucial aspects of licensing rules and doesn’t tell teachers, or even the TSPC staff, about the changes.

The memo states that Ms. Chamberlain has told staff that educators who want to know about any changes in their licensing requirements “can get online and listen to the [commission] meeting results.” She expects the state’s 60,000 K-12 teachers to take their own personal time to listen to minutes of commission meetings? They are not entitled to receive a notice of changes in their ability to practice their profession?

The superintendent who testified before the House Education Committee in April confirmed that this lack of notice of license rule changes is accurate.

The TSPC staff memo further notes that the agency is behind on posting the audio minutes of commission meetings, even if a teacher wanted to try to listen. When the memo was written in March, the most recent audio available was from the prior July’s commission meeting.

These claims are backed up by a school district superintendent and a school district human resources director who each told the House Education Committee in April that TSPC’s delays and constant mistakes in teacher licensing have affected their teachers’ livelihoods and ability to teach.
 
The list of staff turnover included with the TSPC Staff Memo is printed below.

State Covers Up $90k Payout?
BOLI Finds Evidence of Illegality by TSPC;
AG Hides Settlement

  By Lisa Nuss, Oregon PEN

On June 5, 2015, the State of Oregon agreed to pay more than $90,000 to settle claims made by a former employee against the Teachers Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC). The TSPC is the agency that licenses and disciplines all K-12 teachers in Oregon, and has been under attack by legislators for inefficiencies including posting the worst licensing backlog in the country. Until today, no public announcement of this agreement has been made. No other Oregon news outlet or governmental entity has disclosed this settlement, which is not confidential and is a public record. OregonPEN had to ask for a copy of the settlement for a month and was first told by the Attorney General’s Office that an “amicable” settlement was reached, with no mention of the nearly $100,000 payout.

The settlement is not listed on the agenda of the late June meeting of the Commission. It appears that this event has come and gone, cost the AG’s office over a year’s worth of litigation, involves TSPC paying one year’s back salary to a person who wanted to continue working there until they fired her illegally (allegedly) — and nothing will come of it, no lessons will be learned, no changes will be made. Indeed, no one seems to know about it – was that intended?

AG Omits Fact of Payout in Settlement

OregonPEN first learned of the lawsuit, Kathy Rogers v. TSPC, Exec. Director Vickie Chamberlain and Deputy Director Keith Menk from a September 2014 Statesman-Journal article. The article noted that Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) had found substantial evidence that TSPC, Chamberlain and Menk had violated several state laws.

On July 9, 2015, OregonPEN inquired with the Oregon Attorney General’s Office asking for the outcome of the matter. The person who answered the phone line given for media inquiries said media requests were usually answered within two days.

Attorney General Rosenblum’s “Public Records and Meetings Manual” dated Nov. 2014 clarifies that while there is a conditional exemption from public disclosure for records during litigation, this exemption does not apply to litigation that has been concluded.

After 10 days went by with no response, OregonPEN called again. The person who answered the media inquiry line said she had my request and still had my email. Then, on July 23, 14 days after OregonPEN’s original request, the Oregon Attorney General emailed this official response:

Kathy Rogers Settlement
Edmunson Kristina (kristina.edmunson@doj.state.or.us)
7/23/15

Hi Lisa,
 I understand you are interested in information related to a settlement with Kathy Rogers and TSPC.
 We reached an amicable settlement with Ms. Rogers, in which there was no admission of liability and the teacher standards practices commission is happy to provide Ms. Rogers with a reference for any future employment. We do not typically comment on the details of settlements, however, you are welcome to reach out to Ms. Rogers for comment as well.
Thanks again,

Kristina
Kristina Edmunson
Communications Director
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum
Oregon Department of Justice
Office: 503-378-6002
 *****CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE***** [Omitted]

************************************
Knowing that parties to lawsuits don’t settle after more than a year of litigation, and a substantial evidence BOLI finding, without some payment, after receiving this official response from the AG on July 23, OregonPEN sent the following email to the general TSPC mailbox:

[Email sent from OregonPEN July 23 to TSPC]
I am trying to find out the results of the settlement in the case of Kathy Rogers v. TSPC, Vicki Chamberlain and Keith Menk. I understand the case was recently settled and I would like to find out the terms of the settlement. Can you tell me if this has been or will be discussed at an upcoming board meeting, and how I can get a copy of the public portions of the settlement.

Thank you!

A confirmation message was received on July 23 stating that TSPC had received the email. Sources have told OregonPEN that discussion of the request had circulated among TSPC staff. OregonPEN received no response to this email.
 
On August 6, OregonPEN submitted an official public records request for the settlement agreement in this case. The Attorney General Public Records office emailed a response on the same day stating:

“This email is to acknowledge receipt of your request for public records.  To clarify your request, have you already requested records from TSPC and were denied a copy of the settlement agreement or have you not yet heard back from them?  Have you also requested this document from the court?

OregonPEN responded with an email stating,

“The DOJ is the first place I have made an official request of this public record. Please let me know how soon copies are usually available?”

The Attorney General public records office responded with this reply:
Thank you.  We are not the original custodians of the records you seek.  Please seek those records from TSPC and/or the courts.
 Chrystal Bader
Executive Assistant to Deputy Attorney General Fred Boss

Public Affairs and Legislative Coordinator| Office of the Attorney General
Oregon Department of Justice

OregonPEN responded:
 
So are you telling me the Attorney General will not or cannot disclose the details of a settlement that the DOJ negotiated on behalf of a state agency?

Thank you
 
The Oregon Attorney General responded:
No, I am not saying that.  I will check with some of our sections and let you know.
 Chrystal Bader

Growing tired of the Attorney General’s cat and mouse game that by this point had gone on from July 9 when OregonPEN first made the initial media request to the AG  for the results of the lawsuit, until August 6. OregonPEN again contacted the TSPC == this time in an email to the person listed as the media contact for the agency. The media person at TSPC forwarded the email to Executive Director, Vickie Chamberlain, who sent this response:

FW: Media inquiry for Rogers v TSPC settlement
CHAMBERLAIN Victoria * TSPC (Victoria.CHAMBERLAIN@oregon.gov)
8/06/15

To: lisanuss@________ Cc: KELLER Elizabeth * TSPC

Ms. Nuss:  I cannot find any evidence of your publication on the web.  Can you please send me the appropriate site to find your media credentials?
 Vickie Chamberlain
 Victoria (Vickie) Bianes Chamberlain, JD
Executive Director

OregonPEN followed with this response:

Ms. Chamberlain

Sure – I am forwarding this to my publisher so he can get you the details you need.
Meanwhile, please let me know how a citizen can file a public records records to see a copy of this settlement?

Thanks!
Lisa

After OregonPEN sent this last email, Ms. Chamberlain e-mailed OregonPEN a copy of the settlement agreement, which exposes that the State of Oregon paid out $91,000 to the plaintiff. This fact was omitted in the Attorney General’s 7/23 response to our media inquiry about the results of the case. Had OregonPEN not followed up, the fact of the $91K payout might have stayed secret forever.

This is the first page of the settlement describing the terms of the agreement:

ll. AGREEMENT
A. CONSIDERATION PAYABLE BY TSPC/STATE
1.   TSPC agrees to pay Rogers (1) the sum of Fifty Thousand Dollars and no/100ths and, in addition (2) one years’ wages at the rate Plaintiff was paid at the time of her separation from state service, which sum is Forty Thousand One Hundred and Sixty Dollars and no/ 100ths ($40,160,00) to settle the above-captioned cases. State shall complete Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) form 1099 and/or such other documents as may be required by taxing authorities. Plaintiff and State agree that the sums shall be allocated, within fourteen (14) days of the execution of this agreement, as follows:
        a. Forty Thousand One Hundred and Sixty Dollars and no/100ths ($40, 160.00) designated as 2015 wages, after appropriate deductions: paid by TSPC and made out to “Kathleen Rogers;”
        b. Seven Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty Three dollars and 88/100ths ($7,863.88) paid by Oregon Department of Administrative Services Risk Management and made out to “Kathleen Rogers. ” c, Twenty Four Thousand One Hundred and Four Dollars and 12/100ths ($24, 104, 12) paid by Oregon Department of Administrative Services Risk Management and made out to “Charese Rohny Law Office, LLC,”
        d. Eighteen Thousand and Thirty Two Dollars and no/100ths ($18:032.00) paid by Oregon Department of Administrative Services Risk Management and made out to “Diane S. Sykes, Attorney at Law.”
2.    Sums designated as wages shall be subject to all applicable deductions for federal or state taxation.

What was the nearly $100K paid out for?

We understand that settlement agreements often do not include an admission of wrong doing by a defendant. This settlement agreement admits no wrongdoing by TSPC, but court records show the Attorney General spent a lot of time and public money trying to get the case dismissed from multiple courts and it was never successful – the judge determined there was enough on the merits to proceed with litigation.
 
We also know that the plaintiff Kathy Rogers first submitted her claims, for employment discrimination, through the Oregon BOLI complaint process. We know that BOLI made findings of fact that there was substantial evidence that TSPC Executive Director Vickie Chamberlain and Deputy Director Keith Menk violated Oregon state law on two counts, and certified the plaintiff to go forward either with an administrative claim or into state court.
 
We also know that several educators testified to the Oregon House Education Committee last April of abusive treatment by the TSPC and Ms. Chamberlain that echoes the treatment described in Plaintiff Kathy Rogers’ lawsuit. 
 
We also know that plaintiff Kathy Rogers’ alleged TSPC and Vickie Chamberlain retaliated against Rogers for Rogers’ support of the staff voting to unionize during this period. This complaint was not proven, since the case settled, but the case settled for a large enough amount of money that Oregon citizens might wonder in whose interest is it to hide the bad acts of an agency director?
 
We also know that a majority of TSPC staff gave a memo to Oregon legislators last spring detailing actions and mismanagement by TSPC Exec Director Chamberlain that echo the claims alleged by plaintiff Kathy Rogers.
 
The TSPC staff memo arrived in the Capitol amidst contentious Ways & Means hearings over TSPC Executive Director Vickie Chamberlain’s handling of the agency’s budget as the agency posts the worst backlog in teacher licensing of all 50 states. Bills were also in serious debate over whether to move the entire TSPC agency into the Department of Education (HB 3339), and another bill, proposed by the Chalkboard Project, would have taken away TSPC’s control over licensing college teacher programs.

The agency is flailing, and folks have proposed almost every alternative to mix things up – except to fire the executive director who serves at the pleasure of the governor-appointed commission, and appears to be an at-will employee.
 
Executive directors have been let go for transgressions of a far less magnitude than the evidence of mismanagement that is piling up against Ms. Chamberlain. So the next question to ask is, why is she still in office? Why did the Attorney General attempt to hide the payout?
 
OregonPEN explores one suggested theory in the next article, which is the fact that TSPC Exec Director Vickie Chamberlain’s husband is one of the leading donors to Oregon Democrats, as head of the AFL-CIO.

TSPC Executive Director’s Husband is AFL-CIO Chief – Major Democratic Party Donor

By Lisa Nuss, OregonPEN
 
While evidence has been mounting over the last several years of mismanagement at the Teachers Standards and Practices Commission, several Oregon legislators grew visibly impatient last spring with insufficient answers provided by TSPC’s Executive Director Vickie Chamberlain. Many legislators from the budget writing committees are on record during budget hearings grilling and even berating Ms. Chamberlain for inexcusable mismanagement of public funds.
 
One legislator told a source, “I know I would like to get rid of her but no one will touch Vickie because of her husband, Tom Chamberlain.”
 
Tom Chamberlain was elected President of the Oregon AFL-CIO by a unanimous vote of the executive board in October of 2005. He was reelected in 2007 and 2011. He is married to Vickie Chamberlain, TSPC’s Executive Director.
 
The AFL-CIO is one of the largest contributors of campaign funds to democratic officials. A bar chart, compiled by FollowtheMoney.org, shows that for John Kitzhaber and Kate Brown, labor donations made up 20% and 15%, respectively, of their total campaign funds in recent years.

We present these charts only to document the magnitude of labor’s influence in democratic politics.  We are not solely targeting Kitzhaber or Brown; public records will show significant labor contributions to other statewide officials and legislators as well.
 
To pinpoint more significantly the influence of the AFL-CIO, records show Tom Chamberlain’s group was among the top 10 donors to Kitzhaber from 2010-2014. The AFL-CIO gave Kitzhaber $245,000, which puts the group just below Nike founder Phil Knight, who gave $250,000.

No one has suggested Tom Chamberlain or the AFL-CIO personally threatened anyone; it is entirely possible that the legislator speaking made assumptions that are unfounded.
 
In addition, OregonPEN has not heard any suggestion that Ms. Chamberlain was hired to be TSPC’s Executive Director in 2002 for any reason other than her background in education, which was primarily in nonprofit association management. Her LinkedIn profile shows that she was previously a lobbyist for the Oregon School Boards Association and Executive Director of the Oregon Community College Association. She has an undergraduate and graduate degree in education and a law degree from Willamette University. She also worked as a PE teacher in Stayton before going to law school.
 
At the time of Ms. Chamberlain’s appointment in 2002, records show her husband Tom Chamberlain had been elected to succeed (now Portland City Commissioner) Randy Leonard as President of Local 43, the firefighters’ biggest Oregon local. In 2004, Governor Ted Kulongoski appointed Tom to act as a senior policy advisor, a position he held until running to serve as President of the Oregon AFL-CIO.
 
So while there’s been no suggestion of undue influence in Ms. Chamberlain’s hiring, there has been a suggestion of undue influence in the fact that she remains in the position years after the commission, legislators and the governor’s office became aware of serious management problems.
 
According to the TSPC staff memo distributed to legislators, in July 2012 a TSPC staff person sent an anonymous email detailing much of the same problems that continue today. The email was sent to Governor Kitzhaber’s education advisor, to the Department of Education, the commission, and others. Sources confirm the email was received by those entities and discussed.
 
According to the TSPC staff memo, the TSPC Commission also received in Nov. 2011 a negative review of Vickie Chamberlain’s performance by staff. The Legislature, both the Education Committees and the Ways & Means Committees, have long known about the severe backlog in licensing and other management problems.
 
Several legislators were visibly angry with Ms. Chamberlain during the Ways & Means budget hearings this spring and anyone familiar with government knows when powerful legislators or a governor wants someone gone, they can usually find a way.
 
We are connecting the dots here only to explore one theory as to why state officials don’t simply replace the executive director of a flailing agency.  And now that the flailing has cost Oregon $91,000 in this settlement payout, without factoring in for a year’s worth of attorney’s fees from the DOJ, might not now be a time to make that replacement? Could these connections also explain why the Attorney General’s office misrepresented the outcome of the lawsuit to the media?

Oregon Educators Decry Abuse of Office by Teacher Licensing Boss

By Lisa Nuss, OregonPEN

At an April 2015 meeting of the Oregon House Education Committee, two educators drove up to Salem from Southern Oregon to detail the abuse, harassment and mismanagement their school district has experienced from the Oregon Teachers Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC). Another principal submitted a letter detailing how TSPC charged him with a violation for an event that occurred after he had retired – which retirement could be proved by TSPC’s own records.

Educators submitted a Medford Mail Triibune editorial written in 2013 titled, “Oregon’s Star Chamber: Educator regulatory board fails to follow even basic due process.” The Mail-Tribune recounted the TSPC’s treatment of educators treatment in Southern Oregon and wrote:

“That kind of process by a public body almost defies belief and is clearly not acceptable by any modern standard of fairness. Empowering a state agency to employ star chamber tactics in prosecuting someone anonymously accused not only does disservice to the educator facing the allegations, but also to the state and its citizens…”

We are reprinting below the written testimony of a superintendent of a southern Oregon school district. She also told her story directly to Oregon legislators. She leads off her testimony by claiming: “TSPC is beyond broken. It lacks accountability, transparency and — most fundamentally — it lacks the basic tenet of due process.”

Testament to TSPC Mismanaqement
Submitted by Cynda S. Rickert, Superintendent of Jackson County School District 9, Eagle Point, Oregon 

State leaders have made education reform a top priority for many years. Much attention is given to funding levels, student achievement and graduation rates. Little to no attention has been focused on one of the state’s key education components — the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC). 

TSPC is beyond broken. It lacks accountability, transparency and — most fundamentally — it lacks the basic tenet of due process. 
Absent abolishing TSPC and transferring its functions to the Department of Education, TSPC must be reformed. 
Below are documented issues we have experienced first-hand at Jackson County School District 9 in Eagle Point. In addition to highlighting the dysfunctions, we offer proposed solutions. 
My personal experiences as well as district experiences exemplify the need for such reform. The following are documented issues l/the district have experienced firsthand over the past two years regarding bogus complaints, denial of basic human and professional due process rights, and general harassment at the hand of TSPC. As you will see, at best this organization has attempted to censure me for fulfilling my professional responsibilities; at worst they have colluded with disgruntled former employees and union members to use this important public agenda in an unwarranted and unconscionable personal attack to retaliate against me for successfully leading Jackson County School District 9 through a contentious strike by the Eagle Point Education Association. In brief, l/the district was: 

  • Investigated five times for same complaint filed by the same person. 

  • Denied from knowing what the complaints were until after being charged. 
  • Denied from knowing who filed complaints against me. 
  • Denied from hearing evidence presented against me to the commission. Denied from hearing the vote by commission on whether to charge me. 

2.TSPC Ethics Issues and Possible Solutions 

 
Issue         
Possible Solution 

A. Timeliness and Legitimacy 

Took over one and a half years to learn there was a complaint filed against me. 

  • Same complaint was reinvestigated three and a half years after original complaint and five months after charges had been dropped. 
  • Same complaint was brought against my colleague six months after I had been investigated a second time for the same complaint. 

Create viable and fair timelines to investigate complaints. (342.176 “promptly undertake”) Discern the legitimacy of complaints to determine if they go forward and in what priority. 

NEVER evoke double jeopardy. (Fifth Amendment) 

B. Complaints were clearly driven by two disgruntled board members backed by the union to harass me. These complaints lied dormant for over 1 1/2 years and appeared to be of no interest until they were used as retaliation for a failed labor strike. 
Analyze and determine the legitimacy of each case in a preliminary screening before investigating. [342.176(1)] 

TSPC interprets 342.176(1) as MUST investigate ALL complaints. 

• 342.176(1) allows screening but if it’s not clear, spell out that initial screening is TSPC’s first step in what complaints move forward to further investigation and what complaints are duplicative, motivated by harassment, so tardily filed that they are not significant, or motivated by factors other than those listed in 342.176(1). 

c. TSPC Commissioner was corresponding with TSPC investigator responsible for conducting the investigation and offered “to get the under the hood” information on me. 
Any TSPC Commissioner should never be involved in an investigation. 

D TSPC Commissioner who was involved in the investigation then sat on the “unbiased” commission, heard the case, and brought charges against me. 
Should there be any authorized reason for being involved, the Commissioner must recuse him/herself from participating in hearing the case when it is brought to the commission. 

E. The same TSPC Commissioner’s term expired on 12/31/2013 but she remained seated on the Commission for seven months, allowing her to be inappropriately privy to confidential information. 
Once a TSPC Commissioner’s term expires, the Commissioner should no longer remain seated and be privy to confidential information. 

F I was not told what the complaints were until after I was charged. 
Anyone facing charges should be told what the complaints are and who the complainants are BEFORE being investigated. Nothing in statute prohibits this, yet TSPC maintains it can’t do this. So add language “Upon request, the Commission investigator shall provide the educator with a copy of the complaint and the name of the complainant.” 

G I was not told who filed the complaint(s). 
See above
 
H I was denied access to hear the evidence brought forward in the case against me when it was presented to the Commission even though I appeared and requested entrance. 
Person charged has the right to receive the investigation results and to appear and object to the Commission before TSPC decides to pursue the complaint. The person involved should have the option to request an open meeting. This practice already takes place in public school districts. 

 I. I was denied hearing the Commission’s findings (no minutes were made available) and the Commission voted in executive session to which I was denied access. 
Person charged should be afforded the right to hear publicly the action/decision recommended by the Commission. 192.660(6) This practice already takes place in public school districts. 192.660(2)(b). 

 J. TSPC investigators notified the media before notifying me of complaints filed. I learned about the complaints from a local reporter. 
TSPC employees should not communicate with media before notifying person being investigated. 

K. I was not allowed any defense until after finding out what I’d been charged with and the penalty the Commission had been advised to assess. 
342.177 Hearing and decision on charges; notice states “The person against whom the charge is made shall have the right to be represented by counsel and to present evidence and argument.” This basic due process right must be granted during the investigation phase, currently, 342.176. 

L. Since I did not agree with the charges I requested a hearing. However, TSPC is NOT bound by the decision of the judge overseeing the hearing. 
A legitimate appeal process must support upholding the findings of the unbiased body that hears the appeal. Allowing TSPC or any agency to not be bound by the appeal decision begs the questions, ‘”Why appeal?” and “Who is TSPC accountable to?” 

Additional Notes: 

  1. TSPC should always give first priority for investigation to complaints of educator actions against children. 
  2. Complaints of violation of licensure laws should be among the lowest priorities, unless there are multiple separate charges that would constitute a pattern, if found to be true. 

Summary: 

  • Investigated five times for same complaint filed by the same person. 
  • Denied from knowing what the complaints were until after being charged
    Denied from knowing who filed complaints against me. 
  • Denied from hearing evidence presented against me to the commission. Denied from hearing vote by commission on whether to charge me. 
  • Daily Operations/Licensing Issues 

The previous information is documentation about TSPC’s complaint process; however, it does not address the daily operations at TSPC. The following documentation is one district’s, Jackson County School District9/Eagle Point; experience with TSPC on what should be routine matters such as licensing. There are 197 school districts in the state of Oregon and it’s difficult to imagine if all of them have similar experiences with the daily operations of TSPC. If our experience is common across the state, it’s clear that TSPC is dysfunctional and mismanaged. In talking to my colleagues from other districts, they experience similar roadblocks with TSPC.  [remainder deleted for space – ed.]