Saturday, June 15, 2024

Scott escorted out of 'volatile’ board meeting

Hagadone News Network | June 16, 2023 1:05 AM

PRIEST RIVER — A state legislator was escorted from a contentious West Bonner County School Board meeting to defuse tensions, according to Priest River Police.

Held at a packed Priest River Junior High School auditorium, the meeting was scheduled to discuss a contract with Branden Durst, a senior policy analyst with the Idaho Freedom Foundation who was hired June 7 to lead the district.

The escort was an effort to calm tensions and ensure nothing unwarranted happened after the volatile meeting following a possible interaction between Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, and a citizen attending the meeting, Priest River Police Chief Drew McLain said.

The exchange happened as a large crowd remained in the auditorium following the brief, seven-minute meeting.

While there, McLain said a citizen reached over Scott's shoulder with their phone to take a photo of what the District 2 legislator had written on a notepad.

"[T]his caused Rep. Scott to react and allegedly may have made physical contact with the citizen taking the picture," McLain said in an email. "Due to the size of the crowd and for safety concerns, I had Rep. Scott walk outside with me to diffuse the volatile situation."

No arrests or citations were issued, McLain said.

McLain said any further investigation of the incident will be referred to Idaho State Police, Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador or another outside entity to avoid any perceived bias toward either party involved.

Scott did not respond to efforts seeking comment on the interaction.

In another exchange, captured at the end of a live-stream of the meeting by Priest River resident Kylie Hoepfer on social media, the crowd began chanting "We are PR" as Scott talked to a resident. In the video, the legislator suddenly turns toward Hoepfer, leans toward her, wiggles her hands, and makes a face.

Hoepfer said in the other interaction, as she and other parents were being interviewed by a Spokane TV station, Scott sat down in front of them and began taking notes and photos of the parents.

Somebody went to take a picture of her notes and Scott "went in to grab the phone out of that person's hand" and appeared to grab the other parent's arm as they pulled their arm away, she said.

At that point "everybody got kind of loud," which caused the police officers stationed in the back of the auditorium to come forward and escort her out of the auditorium, Hoepfer said.

The exchanges followed a tense and combative meeting in which the WBCSD board voted to strike possible reconsideration of Durst as the district's new superintendent and pull a vote on the contract from the agenda.

The meeting saw frequent comments from the audience criticizing Durst's selection. It ended with board members who voted for Durst being booed out of the auditorium when Durst’s contract was tabled unanimously.

Board members said they are unsure of what the next steps will be regarding Durst’s contract negotiations. The matter was tabled at the call of the chair, which means it cannot be voted on until WBCSD board chairman Keith Rutledge adds it to the agenda.