A Delaware County judge has ruled in favor of four school board members defending themselves against fellow board member Adam White, who had filed a civil action alleging that they had violated Ohio's open meeting statute. On Jan. 16, Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Everett H. Krueger dismissed all of White's claims against the rest of the board.
In October 2012, The Columbus Dispatch published an editorial regarding the board’s policy that requires all communication between board members and district staff to first pass through the superintendent or treasurer.
Then-board president Dave King wrote a letter to the editor in response to the Dispatch’s editorial, and he reached out via email to board members Stacy Dunbar, Kevin O’Brien and Julie Feasel for input on the letter. The letter explained that this long-standing policy is intended to streamline communications in an effort to make efficient use of staff and board members’ time. White later filed his claim against the other board members, alleging they had violated Ohio’s open meeting law by engaging in email correspondence while formulating a response to the Dispatch editorial.
Judge Krueger ruled, “at the time the emails were exchanged, there was no public business discussed.” The judge also said, “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.”
By issuing this summary judgment in favor of the defendants, the judge essentially ruled that there is no set of facts or variation of facts by which White could have successfully won this case.
Though the judge fully dismissed all of White’s claims, the litigation came at a cost to the Olentangy school district, and ultimately, to district taxpayers. According to O’Brien, the current board president, “It is estimated that between $10,000-$15,000 were invested in legal fees to support the successful defense of the board's position in this dispute with Mr. White.”