Eric Langness

News Article

Forest Lake Schools / Charges Fly at Board Meeting

Censuring of Two Members at Issue

by Megan Boldt

The battle royal continued Thursday night between two factions on the Forest Lake school board and their supporters.

Several area residents chided the five-member majority that censured fellow members David Gay and Eric Langness last month.

Board members accused Gay and Langness of violating the state's data practices act by complaining about Superintendent Lynn Steenblock's performance during a board meeting Jan. 3. Gay made a motion to explore procedures for disciplining the superintendent over how the district handles background checks. Langness seconded Gay's motion.

Wyoming resident Jim Banta blamed three members specifically for mischaracterizing Gay's motion and misinterpreting Minnesota's data practices act.

"Gentleman, these transgressions are very, very serious," Banta said. "You now must provide answers."

At the January meeting, Gay argued that no one had taken responsibility after a district self-defense instructor was charged in December with having sex with a 15-year-old student and after a 14-year-old girl was killed in a May crash while being driven home by a contract worker. The driver, who also died in the accident, was found to have marijuana in his system.

The district did not conduct a criminal background check on Ladislao "Audi" Enriquez, who faces first- and third-degree counts of criminal sexual conduct. And a transportation company that had a contract with the district did no checks on Scott Wendt, the driver involved in the crash.

Both men were independent contractors, not district employees, and the district was not required to perform a check.

Gay tried to get the minutes of the Jan. 3 meeting corrected Thursday, arguing that he made a motion to explore disciplinary procedures, not to punish the superintendent.

"If I'm going to be censured, I'd like to be censured for what I've said," Gay said.

The board denied that motion 5-2, saying they needed to review the tapes from the old meetings before they changed the minutes.

Langness, who was sporting a "Censured" button, also questioned whether board member Joe Grafft truly sought out legal opinions from the Minnesota School Boards Association and the district's lawyer to confirm the motion violated the data practices act.

Grafft said that Langness' comments were out of line and that he did in fact make those calls.

"Don't you call me liar," Grafft said.

Pioneer Press

Date: 03/07/08

for Minnesota Senate District 39