Judge halts ouster of RH board members #045; for now

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2005

A group seeking to remove three Rock Hill school board members will have to wait until all the I's are dotted and T's are crossed before they proceed with their plan.

Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Richard Walton said Wednesday he could not rule on a request to temporarily remove three board members, Lavetta Sites, Wanda Jenkins and Paul R. Johnson, pending the outcome of a lawsuit to permanently remove them.

Attorneys for the group seeking the removal, Citizens Against Poor Spending (CAPS), failed to make proper notifications about Wednesday's hearing, Walton said.

Email newsletter signup

Walton said the three defendants in the matter were notified they were being sued, but were not told the date of the hearing in the matter.

"I was not notified what time to appear," Sites said. "There was no date, no case number, just this generic thing. How am I supposed to know to appear if attorneys for that group don't notify me?"

Sites said none of the three board members named in the lawsuit have hired legal counsel yet in this matter.

Further, Walton said, the 348 people who signed the petition seeking to remove the three board members are party to the lawsuit and must be notified as such. All 348 people must be represented in court like any other plaintiff in any other lawsuit and would be liable as a group and as individuals for the outcome of the lawsuit.

"The people who signed it are not just petitioners, they are plaintiffs," Walton said. "These individuals would be liable jointly and severally for any judgments in the case. They were not petitioning for a recall or referendum. … This is a different animal."

Walton said the attorneys for CAPS must first obtain permission from each person who signed the petition before those attorneys can represent them.

"I'm disappointed," CAPS attorney Austin Wildman said after the hearing adjourned. "But we're looking forward to getting the matter under way."

How soon will the matter be heard in court? That depends. Walton said the Roger Marshall murder trial, which begins Monday with jury selection, will occupy his time for the next six weeks.

CAPS attorney Austin Wildman asked Walton to consider stepping aside and allowing a visiting judge to hear the case.

Walton praised the Lawrence County Board of Elections for their work in verifying the signatures on the petition.