RH board focuses on legal matters

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

It was simply a briefing on legal matters.

The Rock Hill School Board met with attorney R. Gary Winters behind closed doors Wednesday afternoon to discuss pending legal matters facing the district.

The special session lasted approximately an hour. Board member Lavetta Sites declined to comment other than to say the meeting was productive.

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“Yes, it was, for me, I think,” she said.

Afterward, the board passed a resolution waiving attorney-client privilege so that another attorney with the law firm of Brickler and Eckler can testify during an upcoming trial, according to board treasurer Chris Robinson.

“That is a law firm we consult with mainly on special education matters,” Robinson said. He did not specify what cases that the Brickler and Eckler law firm had been involved with or what trial the attorney was needed in for testimony.

Neither Robinson nor Sites said what specific legal matters were discussed during the special meeting but the school district is facing several legal issues at this time.

Three years ago, Brent and Amanda Unroe filed a lawsuit against the board, claiming Brent Unroe was unlawfully fired from his job as a special ed teacher and that their adopted African-American special needs children were discriminated against.

School officials have always denied the allegations and have said in the past that Brent Unroe was terminated for abusing students.

According to their attorneys, Mike Moore and Toki Clark of Columbus, the Unroes are asking that Brent Unroe be returned to his job as a teacher and that the employment records pertaining to the misconduct allegations against him be sealed or destroyed.

They are also asking for more than $3 million in compensatory and punitive damages, although they have proposed taking less money if the school district will fire Superintendent Lloyd Evans, elementary school principal Freddie Evans and assistant principal Vickie Evans.

The Unroe case is schedule for trial in June in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.

Two other families have also filed lawsuits against the board. Brenda Mulkey and Shara Jenkins claim their diabetic children were discriminated against.

Trial dates have not yet been scheduled in those cases.

School officials have also denied any wrongdoing in these cases as well.

Also pending is the case of three board members who were removed from office last year in a lawsuit filed by the citizens group Citizens Against Poor Spending (CAPS).

Sites and fellow board members Paul R. Johnson and Wanda Jenkins have contested that jury verdict. The matter is pending in the Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals.

Wednesday’s meeting was originally scheduled for Monday evening but was rescheduled because the local media had not been given a 24-hour notice due to a clerical error.

The Ohio Open Records Act, also known as the “Sunshine Law,” requires governmental bodies to notify the media 24 hours in advance of all meetings.

In 2004, the Rock Hill board was admonished by Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Richard Walton because he determined the board had violated that law in the past.

Once the lack of notification was realized, the meeting was pushed back to comply with the law.