RH board members keep seats

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 3, 2006

Judge Fred Crow took less than 24 hours to decide who will remain on the Rock Hill School Board — at least for now — but the judge still must resolve a financial issue that has lingered for more than 8 months.

Crow issued a one-sentence ruling late Friday stating that two embattled board members can keep their seats on the board, at least right now.

This comes on the heels of the Ohio 4th District Court of Appeals Thursday dismissing an appeal by Paul R. Johnson, Lavetta Sites and Wanda Jenkins that sought to overturn the ruling that removed them from office last year after a citizen group filed a lawsuit alleging the board members were not performing their duties properly.

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The appeals court would not rule on the case because the entire lawsuit that removed them had not been settled in the lower court.

At issue is a request from the Citizens Against Poor Spending, the group that filed the lawsuit, asking that more than $61,000 in legal fees be paid by the county since those who filed the petition are Lawrence County taxpayers.

Attorneys for both sides had been at odds over what the appeal dismissal meant. Attorneys for the board members maintained that an ordered stay of the board member’s removal would still be in effect. The other side contended that if there was no appeal, there was no stay, so the board members would not be returned.

Johnson said he was happy to hear the ruling and hopes that this can be the first step to finally putting to rest the political battles that have engulfed the district in past years.

“We just would like everything to settle down. I know I would,” he said. “ … Everything always seems to be focused on things that are not the most important.”

For him, Johnson said this may be a chance to continue to focus on what is important — the kids.

“We are just trying to work to make the schools better,” he said. “That is all I am doing.”

Rich Donohue, a key organizer of CAPS and a past board member who was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the court ruling, also said the focus should be on the kids, adding that Crow’s ruling will only delay any ultimate resolution.

“I’m really disappointed it would only take him 24 hours to make this decision when it has taken more than eight months and hasn’t ruled on the money issue,” Donohue said.

“The law says it is supposed to be done in 30 days but the case got postponed. Then a visiting judge was assigned and that had to be scheduled. This just keeps getting pushed back farther and farther.”

Though Donohue said he would like to see the board members ultimately removed, he emphasized that he and the rest of the Rock Hill taxpayers just want to see the issue resolved — one way or another.

The issue has dragged on for nearly a year and will likely be fought in court in upcoming months if Crow eventually removes his stay and the board opts to appeal again.

Jenkins won her seat back in an election a few weeks after being removed. Sites and Johnson were returned to the board in January when Crow granted a stay pending the appeal.

In the meantime, remaining board members Troy Hardy and Jackie Harris appointed Ora Cox, Kendall Kitchen and Donohue to fill those seats. Kitchen lost his seat when Jenkins was re-elected.