Josephine County judge rules teacher resignation agreement is public

Judge rules resignation agreements public

A Josephine County judge ruled in June 2005 that the Three Rivers School
District must make public a resignation agreement in which the board
paid $10,000 to an instructor who was later barred from teaching in
Oregon. The judge said just because an item is placed in a teacher’s
personnel file does not make the item exempt from public scrutiny. The
document, he said, did not include any of the sensitve, personal privacy
interests protected by state law.

GERALD C. NEUFELD, Circuit Judge
ALLAN M. COON, Circuit Judge
LINDI L. BAKER, Circuit Judge

State of Oregon
Josephine County Circuit Court

June 2, 2005

Mr. Jack L. Orchard
Attorney at Law
One Main Place
101 SW Main Street, Suite 1100
Portland, OR 97204-3219

Ms. Jennifer L. Hungerford
Attorney at Law
615 High Street
Oregon City, OR 97045

RE: Courier Publishing Company v. Three Rivers School District;

Case No. 04CV0631; Motions for Summary Judgment

Dear Counsel:

On May 26, 2005, this Court heard defendant’s Motion for
Summary Judgment and plaintiff’s Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment.
During said hearing, counsel agreed that the facts of this case were not
disputed, and each party claimed that they should receive summary
judgment as a matter of law. The Court took the matter under advisement
for review of the facts, the law, argument, and an in camera review of
the document in question, to wit: the “RESIGNATION AGREEMENT”. I
have come to the conclusion that plaintiff’s Motion for Summary
Judgment must be granted and that defendant’s Motion for Summary
Judgment must be denied.

The law is clear, just because an item is placed in a
teacher’s personnel file does not make the item exempt from public
scrutiny. Defendant urges that the document is exempt pursuant to ORS
342.850 and ORS 192.502(9). The former statute is clearly intended to
protect the privacy interest of school teachers and school districts
from disclosure of teacher evaluations, performance improvement
procedures, in-house disciplinary procedures, and other such internal
activities between teachers and school administrators pertaining to
teacher employment. All such activity, as reflected in the school
district personnel files, is exempt from disclosure pursuant to ORS

However, pursuant to ORS 192.505, if non-exempt information is
mingled with exempt information, then the public body is required to
separate the exempt and non-exempt material and make the non-exempt
material available for examination. This Court finds that the
“Resignation Agreement” is non-exempt material.

The Resignation Agreement is a settlement agreement between the
Three Rivers School District and one of its teachers, Steven Koller.
This agreement does not recite any of the facts which provides the basis
for the school district seeking the resignation of Mr. Koller. Instead,
the agreement simply specifies the terms, conditions and restrictions
that each party gives and receives in exchange for Mr. Koller resigning
from his position as a teacher with the Three Rivers School District.
While it is not unreasonable for such document to be placed in Mr.
Koller’s personnel file, in order to provide closure to such file; it
is also quite reasonable and logical that the agreement be stored in
other locations within the district in that it pertains to school
district administration and does not recite the any of the sensitive,
personal privacy interests held by Mr. Koller pursuant to ORS 342.850
and 192.502(9).

It is primarily for this reason that the Court will order that
the defendant’s School District exercise its duty under ORS 192.505
and separate the non-exempt Resignation Agreement from the balance of
the exempt Koller personnel file and provide said information to
plaintiff forthwith.

For counsel’s information, and in order to complete the
record, the Court also finds that the School District and Mr. Koller
have both waived the provisions of ORS 342.850 and, 192.502(9) as
alleged by plaintiff in their Memorandum and Affidavits in Support of
their Motion for Summary Judgment.

Mr. Orchard may provide an order and judgment accordingly.

Very truly yours,
Allan H. Coon
Circuit Court Judge

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