GIRARD SCHOOLS Parents to refile lawsuit
The dismissal was based on several points, including that the lawsuit did not comply with the procedural requirements, the judge said.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
and TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- A parents group will renew its efforts seeking removal of the entire Girard school board.
The group's lawsuit seeking removal of all five board members was dismissed Thursday.
Reacting to the ruling, Cathy Ross, group president, said, "It's a shame that it got thrown out over a technicality."
"The issue at hand hasn't been addressed," she said, noting board members shouldn't feel exonerated because the question of their removal hasn't been addressed by the court.
Ross said the Girard Concerned Citizens will begin recirculating petitions this weekend.
"I don't think it will take very long," she said. "We're going to go for it. Why should we let it be thrown out over a couple of staples?"
Background: Judge W. Wyatt McKay of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court granted the board's motion to have the suit thrown out.
Several parents filed the action last month, asking a judge to remove the school board members because they didn't inform parents about reported health problems at the intermediate school. Attached to the complaint was a petition signed by more than 2,000 voters.
The judge stated in the six-page opinion that the complaint must be signed by qualified electors of the "political subdivision whose officer it is sought to remove." Instead of having the electors sign the complaint, the complaint was signed by Atty. Don Hanni, who along with Atty. Sebastian Rucci, represents the parents.
The judge also stated that the board attached to the complaint affidavits by some who signed the petitions who stated that "they did not read the complaint, that they were incorrectly advised as to the content of the complaint, that the complaint was not attached to the petition and that no permission was given by the signer to attach their signature to the complaint."
"A number of the counter affidavits state that although a copy of the complaint was presented to the signer, most of the signers did not read the complaint, some were told they could read the complaint or sign it without reading," the judge's ruling states.
The ruling further notes that the lawsuit will be dismissed since it "did not comply with the procedural requirements."
What group plans: Rucci said the parents are currently circulating another petition and will soon refile the complaint.
"We will now do it just as the judge pointed out that he wants it done," Rucci said. "We hope to be able to file this by next week.
The judge's decision, however, pleased school board members and their attorney.
Atty. Lou Damiani said "the judge looked at the law" and made the right decision.
"I'm a very happy camper. I'm looking forward to going on and representing the people in this community," said Richard Ragozine, board president.
He pointed out this is the second time in two weeks a judge has ruled in favor of the board.
Judge Peter Kontos of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court turned back an effort by some 50 parents to keep Prospect Elementary School closed.
The parents expressed concern about their children's health because Prospect is attached to the intermediate school that remains closed because of health issues.
Board response: Ragozine said Judge McKay's ruling verifies the board has been acting properly.
Ragozine said the parents group "will never be satisfied."
Ross pointed out Ragozine is up for re-election next year "and we'll see what happens."
Board member Jane Harris countered the school board didn't win on a technicality. Rather, she asserted, "there were many mistakes with the petitions."
"We're glad to be exonerated," Harris said.
"We have a good community, and we have a job to do. It's never without controversy."
She characterized the dispute as being the result of "a difference of opinion."
"We need to get back to the job of keeping our schools in shape. The object is to get the intermediate school environmentally safe and children back in," she said.
The intermediate school was closed May 1 because pupils were becoming ill. It remains closed while work is done to correct the problems.