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CAMPBELL SCHOOLS Board settles contract lawsuit



Published: Wed, July 7, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



Sebest served as treasurer for nine months.

By JoANNE VIVIANO

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A years-long court battle between former Campbell schools treasurer Joseph Sebest and the school board has come to an end.

Sebest and the board have settled a breach of contract lawsuit, with the board agreeing to pay Sebest an amount "somewhere in the middle" of the $20,000 the district wanted to pay and the $96,000 Sebest asked for, said Sebest's lawyer, Eric E. Norton of Cleveland.

Those were the amounts that stalemated the two sides during a June mediation after which the case was headed to trial, court documents show. Trial was slated to start Monday but was averted by the settlement.

"I think the parties are pleased with the final outcome. It was a very long, drawn-out case," Norton said. "The matter has been bouncing around the courts for almost four years."

School board President Robert Dolan could not be reached to comment.

Third suit

The lawsuit settled Monday, filed in 2002, was the third filed by Sebest, who served nine months as treasurer.

Sebest was appointed interim treasurer in April 1999 and served through the remainder of that year at a salary of $48,000. When the school board offered him a two-year, $44,000 contract in January 2000, Sebest declined it in a dispute over the salary reduction and the board rescinded the offer.

The current lawsuit alleges that the school board had violated renewal provisions of Sebest's original contract, which promised Sebest that his salary would be negotiated and remain the same or be increased. The suit says the board failed to negotiate a salary with Sebest before voting to reduce his pay by nearly 10 percent.

While a judge in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court ruled in favor of the school district, Sebest appealed to the 7th District Court of Appeals, which reversed the decision in March and sent the case back to the lower court for trial.

Norton said the resolution gives Sebest some vindication, after his claims were previously rejected by five judges.

"We're finally glad the 7th District recognized the case," he said. "We're finally glad the school board recognized his case had some merit."

A 2001 lawsuit filed in federal court had alleged not only breach of contract, but also discrimination. In that suit, Sebest said some board members perceived him as a health risk because he'd had cancer in the early 1980s and refused to hire him because they feared incurring high health insurance costs. The suit was dismissed by Judge David D. Dowd Jr. in August 2002.

Earlier that year, the 7th District Court of Appeals had ruled against Sebest in an administrative appeal originally filed in common pleas court in 2000 in immediate response to the school board's decision.




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