Groups support White’s appeal

By Gary Budzak

April 10, 2014

A friend-of-the-court brief filed by two public policy advocacy groups should not affect the outcome of the Adam White-Olentangy school board case, the board president told The Gazette.

Common Cause Ohio and the League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWVO) allege that the board violated the state’s Open Meetings Law by using email for discussions and policy decisions.

The groups allege in a joint news release issued on April 8, 2014, that the Board instituted a policy “which effectively blocked Mr. White from investigating alleged financial irregularities within the district without prior permission from the board or superintendent or treasurer.”

In April 2013, Adam White filed suit against board members Kevin O’Brien, Stacy Dunbar, David King and Julie Wagner Feasel. The two groups also allege that “after Mr. White filed suit, the four other Board members voted at a public Board meeting to ratify their prior private deliberations.”

On Jan. 16, 2014, Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Everett H. Krueger dismissed White’s claims against the board. On Feb. 13, 2014, White appealed, just before the 30-day deadline.

“While I respect the views of the two organizations offering to provide input on this case, their input does not change the facts by which Judge Krueger made his decision and the appellate court will make theirs,” president O’Brien told The Gazette in an email. “Judge Krueger was very clear in his decision when he stated ‘there are no facts to support the conclusory statement that the actions of the Defendants were in bad faith or were with malicious purpose, or they acted in a wanton and reckless manner’ and found that the Board had not violated Ohio’s Sunshine or Open Meeting Laws.”

However, LWVO executive director Carrie Davis disagrees.

“Public deliberation means that the public has an opportunity to hear discussions of policy. Deliberations conducted by email and decisions made outside of the public eye are simply bad policy and violate Ohio’s Sunshine Law,” Davis said in the release.

White’s attorney, Phil Harmon, said he welcomed the groups’ support, and that the “Open Meetings Law is critical to a free democracy.”

O’Brien had said the district has spent between $10,000-$15,000 to defend the board against White, an amount that will increase with the appeal.

“These resources could have been better used to further the ultimate purpose and mission of the District — to facilitate maximum learning for every student,” O’Brien said.

White is no stranger to controversy. In 2012, he brought a bodyguard and a policeman to a school board meeting after he claimed he was threatened by School Superintendent Wade Lucas. Board members said it didn’t happen.

In addition, White is often the sole “no” vote on many of the action items the board approves. Earlier this year, White said he was to busy to serve on any of the district’s committees. White was elected in November 2011 and his current term expires Dec. 31, 2015.