ALSEA, Ore. — Oregon gubernatorial candidate Marc Thielman resigned as superintendent of the Alsea School District during an emergency board meeting Tuesday night after members of the school board voted to hire a third-party investigator to look into formal complaints filed against Thielman, according to a report in the Corvallis Gazette-Times. Thielman is running as a Republican for governor.
According to the Gazette-Times, three formal complaints were filed against Thielman in the past week, "alleging a hostile work environment, illegal firing practices and disregard for any viewpoint that is not his own." During Tuesday's meeting, Thielman called the complaints "deeply personal, hurtful and unsubstantiated" and said he would cooperate with the investigation.
According to the Gazette-Times, the formal complaints filed against Thielman came from three district administrators: Katie Sapp, a former assistant superintendent now on paid administrative leave; elementary principal Shannon Rice; and her husband, Travis Rice, the district's technology and communications manager, who was placed on paid administrative leave the day after he filed his complaint.
"The allegations paint a picture of Thielman as a bully, a man with a temper who is often distracted and even inappropriate at times," the Gazette-Times reported. "All three said they believe they are not safe in the current working environment."
Sapp's complaint states that she "formally reported ongoing sexual harassment, intimidation and bullying" by Thielman to two board members. Travis Rice's complaint accuses Thielman of "making derogatory, anti-LGBTQ comments" and sharing "a personal anecdote ... about having sex with his wife."
Shannon Rice reported that "she feels unsafe sharing her opinions or concerns unless they align with Thielman's. She emphasized this is true for other employees, especially female employees." She wrote in the complaint that, "Marc has told me that he would 'burn me to the ground' if I challenged him," the Gazette-Times reported.
Early Wednesday morning, Thielman published a lengthy post to his Marc Thielman for Oregon Governor page on Facebook. In the post, he announced his resignation and said he planned to shift his focus to his run for governor. He referenced the "woke mob" multiple times in the post and accused "progressive activists and agencies of the press" of launching attacks against him "using slander and libel."
"I am going to CONTINUE TO FIGHT, but not in the weeds with the snakes; I aim to fight for you—for all of us—as the head of the Department of Education as YOUR NEXT GOVERNOR," the post read, in part. "I ask you to join me as we take on the Goliath mob and WIN."
Alsea School District is a small district located in rural Benton County, about 24 miles southwest of Corvallis. It serves about 150 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. In January, Thielman announced that the Alsea School Board had approved a resolution to drop the school's mask mandate, making it the first district in the state to defy Oregon's mask mandate.
That decision led the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) to withhold about $324,000 of federal COVID-19 relief funding that was set to go to Alsea School District. In a letter explaining the decision, ODE Director Colt Gill cited the requirement that school districts receiving relief funds comply with all state laws and regulations, which includes Oregon's K-12 mask mandate.
In her complaint, Shannon Rice said Thielman didn't talk to staff or administration about changing the district's masking rules. At a recent school board meeting, board members complained that Thielman hadn't explained to the board how that move would cost the district federal funds, a claim Thielman disputed, the Gazette-Times reported.