The Blade/Lori King
Misdemeanor charges have been filed against the Oregon Board of Education president after an incident Feb. 1 at Clay High School in which he is accused of shouting profanities and threatening an autistic man.
P.J. Kapfhammer was charged with one count of menacing, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, and disorderly conduct, a minor misdemeanor. A hearing in Oregon Municipal Court is scheduled for March 4.
Mr. Kapfhammer is accused of yelleing a profanity and threatening to harm Thomas Blachowski, 25, of Oregon while Mr. Blachowski was in the exercise room working out with members of the Clay baseball team, Mr. Blachowski’s mother, Terrie Blachowski, told police. Mr. Blachowski is the honorary manager of the baseball team and regularly works out with the squad.
Mr. Kapfhammer acknowledged the incident occurred as reported to police, but said the encounter was a misunderstanding that escalated into his yelling when Mr. Blachowski did not respond to his questions when he asked him who he was.
Mr. Kapfhammer did not return a phone call Wednesday, but told The Blade earlier this month he was concerned about the safety of the 50 athletes in the room after the man would not respond.
He said when he asked the man who he was, Mr. Blachowski said nothing and turned his head away.
“I would do anything to fix it. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to fix it,” he told The Blade before a special school board meeting Feb. 5.
Oregon schools Superintendent Michael Zalar wouldn’t comment Wednesday, citing the pending court case. But he told The Blade at the same board meeting Mr. Kapfhammer had followed the rules given to teachers and staff when an unknown individual is encountered on school property.
“There was a miscommunication because of that,” the superintendent said at the time.
Brian Ballenger, a Wood County lawyer, was appointed special prosecutor in the case because Oregon Prosecutor Thomas Dugan is representing Mr. Kapfhammer in another legal matter.
Mr. Ballenger said he interviewed 38 youngsters who were in the weight room at the time but not Mr. Kapfhammer, who spoke to Oregon police. The maximum penalty for a menacing conviction is 30 days in jail and a $250 fine; a disorderly conduct conviction is punishable by a fine of up to $100.
Whether this would affect Mr. Kapfhammer’s seat on the board was unclear. He was elected in November, 2011, and was recently elected president after board member Dick Gabel’s resignation.
Conflicts have arisen between Mr. Kapfhammer and other board members since he took office a year ago.
Fellow board member Diana Gadus said early last year Mr. Kapfhammer told her, “I'm going to kick your ass and I’m going to keep kicking your ass until you quit or don’t run again,” during an argument in a conference room when only the two of them were present. She did not file a police report.
Mr. Kapfhammer told The Blade he apologized to Ms. Gadus, then later told the board during an open meeting that Mrs. Gadus had lied about the outburst.
Mrs. Gadus and other board members could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Mr. Kapfhammer had a misdemeanor criminal record from the 1990s when he ran for the board in 2011. That record was made public during the campaign when an anonymous mailer was sent out to the media and community, pointing out his misdemeanor criminal record in the 1990s, tax liens, and back child-support payments from a decade ago.
The school board’s next regular meeting is at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the high school.
Contact Carl Ryan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6095.