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GIRARD SCHOOLS Lawyer: Petition work was honest



Published: Mon, September 3, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The man who said his signature was forged is a school district employee.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- An attorney representing several parents who have filed petitions to have members of the board of education removed from office says allegations that one person's name was forged and that several others were misled into signing are untrue.

Sebastian Rucci, who represents the parents, says he has talked with those who circulated the petitions and he's confident that no laws were broken.

The parents filed a lawsuit this month, asking a judge to remove the school board members because they didn't inform parents about reported health problems at the intermediate school.

The school was closed in May, and work is being done to correct problems with the ventilation system and carpeting. School officials have said it will not reopen until they are satisfied it is safe.

"Everyone said that they explained the petition, and everyone who signed said they understood," Rucci said.

"We got hundreds more signatures than we needed, so why would anyone forge one signature and not explain the petition? ... It makes no sense."

Seeking dismissal: Attorneys for the school board asked Judge W. Wyatt McKay of Tumbull County Common Pleas Court to dismiss the lawsuit because of alleged technical errors in the way the removal petitions were set up.

In the motion, Atty. Lou Damiani, who represents the school board, cited case law that a recall petition has to spell out the specific complaint against elected officials. This was not the case with the petitions circulated in Girard, he argued, because the complaint was on a separate piece of paper, signed only by attorneys.

Rucci disagrees. A hearing has been set for Friday.

Affidavits: Attached to the motion to dismiss the lawsuit were several affidavits from residents who said that they were misled when they were asked to sign the petition. One man, Odath Lambert of Stull Avenue, said his signature was forged.

Rucci noted that Lambert is an employee of the school district.

Lambert could not be reached. The school district confirmed that he is an employee.

Rucci said Lambert is a van driver for the schools and delivers food to the cafeterias. He said that Lambert is also a school custodian.

"I think it's ironic that the one person, out of 2,000 signatures, who says his name was forged works for the school district," Rucci said.

Damiani noted that others who signed the petition stated in affidavits that they were not given information to read that explained the purpose of the petition.

Antoinette M. Pizzulo, states in an affidavit she gave to the board that she was told her signature was to "ensure that the building was safe for the children."

Maria Naples of Cheyenne Drive stated in her affidavit that she thought she was signing a petition to help someone get elected.

The intermediate school has been closed since May and will remain closed until officials believe it is safe to reopen, school officials said.




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