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School board member move raises concerns

Two OTSB members question Mike Sutton's move out of district

Two members of the Oregon Trail School Board say they are troubled that a fellow school board member has moved out of the district he was elected to represent.

Mike Sutton was elected to Zone 2, which serves Boring, in July 2015. He moved to Damascus in late November, but continues to own property in Boring. Board members Dan Thompson (Zone 3, Welches) and Candice Lindberg (Zone 6, At-Large) expressed concern this week that Sutton is still serving on the school board.

Thompson believes allowing Sutton to remain on the board after he has left the district could set the tone for future elections.

He said that’s why he’s speaking up.

“My main reason is that you don’t want to set that precedent,” he said. “Then someone from Portland might want to run for the board. And since we allowed that to happen (with Sutton), we’d have to let that happen.”

That’s not legal, of course, because someone from outside the district can’t run for a school board seat where they do not live.

Thompson said he considers Sutton a friend and admires the work he has done as a board member.

But he also believes Sutton should consider stepping down.

“Mike either has to move into the district or he has to resign,” he said. “He does a good job as a board member, but it’s a dangerous precedent. The people of Boring are not being represented by a person who lives in their zone. And ethically that’s not correct.”

Lisa Freiley, legal counsel for the Oregon School Board Association which provides legal and legislative services to school boards, pointed to Oregon Revised Statute 332.018. The statute states that no person is eligible to serve as a director unless the person is an elector of the district and has resided there for the period of one year immediately prior to their election or appointment.

She noted that a person can’t have more than one legal residence. That residence also determines where a person is a district elector.

“You can’t have two,” she said. “You’ve got to have one.”

However, Freiley said Tuesday that determining a person’s elector status is often not as black-and-white as one might wish. For example, a person might work in California, receive their mail there or sleep there. But they might have an Oregon driver’s license. So where should they be an elector?

Ultimately, it’s not up to the Oregon Trail School District or the Oregon School Board Association to determine whether Sutton is an elector; it’s a call for the Clackamas County Clerk to make.

“They’re going to make the determination based on these factors,” she said, which include Sutton’s current residence, voter registration and other factors.

Sutton said Monday he was surprised that Thompson and Lindberg had decided to share their concerns publicly.

Sutton said he travels from Damascus to Boring daily to visit his family, and pays bills on his family’s home there. The Boring home is also in a trust in his name.

He knew there were concerns with his residency, but thought board members were going to discuss their thoughts at its April 11 executive session, which follows its regular meeting.

Sutton said he has served the Sandy community for many years and will continue to do so.

“I’ll go either way,” he said. “I’m not going to drag Sandy through a bunch of stuff. If I have to resign, I’ll resign. I care about the district deeply.”

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