Evans settles lawsuit against Rock Hill board

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The lawsuit brought against the Rock Hill Local School District by its superintendent is over.

Following a conference Wednesday before Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Richard Walton,

a judgment entry was announced affirming Lloyd Evan's 5-year contract extension that was granted by a lame duck board in November 2003.

Email newsletter signup

The judgment entry also fined the school board $500, as set forth in state statute, for violating the open meetings law during its Feb. 25, 2004, special meeting during which three members, Lavetta Sites, Wanda Jenkins and Paul R. Johnson, voted to non-renew Evans' contract. The entry also requires the school board to pay for Evans' legal fees that total $71,436 and court costs of $1,197.

The status conference may have ended with an agreement but it began with a distinct lack of harmony. William Pohlman, with the law firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, argued that the status conference should be delayed for 60 to 90 days to allow for &#8220clarity” in the matter.

&#8220I'm here to urge the court to exercise caution and restraint and request to continue the status conference,” Pohlman said.

He argued that the three board members who hired his law firm - Sites, Jenkins and Johnson - and who were later removed from the board in a lawsuit, may be granted the right to appeal the lawsuit that removed them from office and the trio may seek a stay of execution to remain in office pending the outcome of that appeal.

Therefore, Pohlman said the three board members appointed last week, who fired his law firm and hired local attorney Mack Anderson, may have acted in haste.

Pohlman also questioned the legality of last week's appointment of board members Kendall Kitchen, Ora Cox and Rich Donohue to the board, since they were appointed by

remaining board members, Troy Hardy and Jackie Harris.

&#8220There are concerns about whether two board members have the authority to appoint since they do not represent a quorum,” Pohlman said. &#8220… We're concerned that until these issues are resolved there is tremendous risk in this court if someone has it wrong, everyone is going to have to come back and put Humpty Dumpty together again.”

But Davis Kessler, co-counsel for Evans, argued that there was no valid reason to continue the status conference and that Evans and the five current board members are eager to put this matter behind them.

&#8220The three board members have been removed from the board and are now private citizens, nothing more. Those who have been appointed to replace them are the legitimate parties in this lawsuit. Let the attorneys from Columbus head north to Columbus where they belong, myself included.”

Kessler also argued that a continuance would further harm his client, who is the subject of a vendetta by the three former board members.

When pressed by Pohlman, he did not specifically state how a continuance would actually harm Evans, who has been back on the job since the Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals kicked the lawsuit back to the lower court.

Evans won his lawsuit in Common Pleas Court but the board appealed; the appeals court said it could not make a decision on an incomplete ruling and sent the matter back to the local court.

In opting to have the status conference, Walton said

an Ohio Attorney General's opinion contend that the remaining board members, while not a quorum, could appoint school board members.

He said at this point, no evidence exists to show that the school board acted improperly in hiring Anderson as its attorney during Saturday's special meeting

&#8220At this point, until something comes up, we must assume the acts of the board have been done properly,” Walton said. He directed attorneys to his chambers to discuss the lawsuit.

&#8220I guess this means I'm not invited,” Pohlman said.

&#8220I'm not inviting him,” Anderson replied.