Jury chosen in Rock Hill board trial

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

Were they bad stewards or good stewards of the offices they hold?

Twelve Lawrence Countians will spend the rest of this week deciding if Rock Hill school board members Lavetta Sites, Wanda Jenkins and Paul R. Johnson are guilty of &#8221malfeasance, misfeasance, non-feasance and gross neglect of duty“ in their positions on the board.

The trial to remove the three Rock Hill school board members from office began Tuesday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

Email newsletter signup

In his opening statement, Austin Wildman, attorney for the group Citizens Against Poor Spending (CAPS) that filed the lawsuit, said he and his partner, Eric Schooley, would show the three board members foolishly spent money on lawyers to help them get rid of Superintendent Lloyd Evans.

The attorney also said he would show the board abdicated their responsibility by handing over control of the board for four months last year to the county school board and refused to share vital information with two other board members, Troy Hardy and Jackie Harris.

Wildman said that Sites had a vendetta against Evans because her son had not gotten a job in the school district and that the other two followed her without question in her push to retaliate. And he said although Evans' name would be mentioned in the proceedings, the trial was really about what Sites, Jenkins and Johnson had done in their capacity as board members..

&#8221I'm here presenting 600-700 people in the school district who seek justice,“ Wildman said. &#8221This case isn't about Lloyd Evans. It isn't about anything other than the removal of three school board members from office.“

But Steven Rodeheffer, attorney for the three board members, countered that he represented the thousands of people who elected those three board members. He said while he agreed with Wildman to a certain extent that the trial was not about Evans, Wildman said the superintendent was still a factor in the trial. He told the jury that the road that led to the trial started when Evans retired and then was rehired by a more school board more favorable to him in 2002, a process known as double-dipping that allowed him to draw a retirement and a salary at the same time.

When Sites and Johnson were elected to the board in 2003, the lame duck board extended Evans contract by five years to protect him.

&#8221It was clear to the board members that people wanted them to get rid of Evans,“ Rodeheffer said. &#8221They weren't happy about his double-dipping and other things and people knew when they (Sites, Jenkins and Johnson) ran for office what they wanted to do.“

Visiting Judge Fred Crow told the jurors it was their responsibility to decide which side was right based on the value of the evidence presented.

Nine of the 12 jurors must decide one way or the other by the end of the trial which is expected to continue through Friday.