EVERETT — Police have concluded there’s not enough evidence to arrest any Everett School Board member, but someone could face a misdemeanor charge after a heated argument turned physical during a Tuesday night executive session.
In a report forwarded to city prosecutors on Thursday, police w
rote “there is insufficient evidence to support any arrests for assault and it appears the most appropriate applicable charge would be disorderly conduct.”
The report makes no recommendation on whether such a charge should be filed.
The police report includes a seven-page summary of interviews police conducted with each of the five members of the Everett School Board, as well as their written statements.
The report went to prosecutors on the day directors met for the first time since the fight among three board members. It was the first part of a two-day annual planning conference. While they spent the day, for the most part, in quiet discussion, the 4-1 split among them still was evident.
Tuesday night’s fracas was mentioned twice, once by Ed Petersen, the school board president, and once by board member Jessica Olson.
The brawl involved Petersen, Olson and board member Kristie Dutton. It ended with police being called to school district headquarters. Olson and Dutton said they were scratched during the scuffle. Olson also had bloodied fingernails, including one bent back at a 90-degree angle.
The scuffle broke out after Olson turned on her video camera during an executive session. The other four board members objected and Petersen reached for the camera. Within minutes, Olson was grappling with Dutton over control of documents while being restrained by Petersen, according to police reports.
“We had a very unfortunate event on Tuesday evening — I’m sure it will be in our minds as we’re working together,” Petersen told the board at the start of Thursday’s meeting.
“I think it’s a dynamic that will affect our communication together and one not to be avoided, yet not one that needs to dominate our work. Our purpose is governance and planning,” he said.
Much of Thursday’s meeting, led by a human-relations consultant, was spent in the familiar ways of workplace conferences, with flip charts and lists of challenges and priorities.
Among the challenges listed by school board member Carol Andrews was lack of trust and openness.
“I’m still wrestling with the question of how do you establish trust?” Petersen said. “Open, honest conversation happens in an environment of trust. When it doesn’t exist, people hedge their comments and don’t go to the topics that should be discussed.”
Olson responded: “This board, to me, is beyond trust. Trust is never going to happen.” She alleged that some of her fellow board members lied in their police reports describing the events leading up to and including the scuffle.
“Five people have big issues,” she said. “That’s what we need to plan for. We’re beyond trust.”
None of the other four board members responded. The consultant called for a break.
The board then broke into small work groups. Olson was paired with board member Jeff Russell. They were tasked with deciding how best to raise topics not on school board agendas.
Conflict over this very issue surfaced during the regular school board meeting Tuesday, before the scuffle during the executive session.
As that three-and-a-half hour meeting drew to a close, each school board member had the option of making general comments. Olson said she wanted to make a motion to start each board meeting by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
She didn’t get a second. Petersen then told Olson she was out of order and was ignoring the board’s meeting agenda.
“This is for comments and no more than comments,” he said.
“We’ve discussed this before,” he said at one point. “There are places to make motions.”
On Thursday, Olson and Russell discussed how school board policies might be amended so that items not on the agenda could be brought up.
“I think anything that limits confusion is going to help” and perhaps help ease tensions, Russell said.
Olson agreed. Such changes could “reduce the amount of conflict when everyone is playing by the same rules,” she said.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or email@example.com.