By Ed Runyan
A Trumbull County judge has refused to order Trumbull County Children Services to allow the public to attend the agency’s board meetings without a sign-in requirement.
Judge John M. Stuard of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court ruled that the cases and statutes presented to the court by attorneys give “no clear and convincing evidence to allow this court to issue the requested injunction.”
Patricia Paridon of Niles filed suit last year after the Oct. 18, 2011, Children Services board meeting at which she was refused entry because she refused to put her name on a sign-in sheet.
She and her attorney, David Engler, asked the court for an injunction requiring the agency to eliminate the sign-in requirement.
Paridon did sign her name under protest at the December meeting and was allowed to attend. She said she was not asked to sign her name at the August meeting. Paridon is among a group of people who have been publicly critical of the agency since last summer.
Engler said he will appeal the ruling because the Ohio Supreme Court “almost uniformly falls [on the side] on openness in its past decisions.”
Whether he appeals it to the Ohio Supreme Court or Children Services does, Engler thinks the matter ultimately will be decided by the state’s top court after a decision from the state appeals court.
Nick Kerosky, executive director of Children Services, said the sign-in policy is 20 years old and is necessary for the safety of the staff and for the children who live at the agency.
Kerosky said it is especially necessary to know who is in agency facilities when meetings take place in the gymnasium because the gymnasium is part of the facility that houses the children. Meetings usually are in the gym when a large crowd is expected, Kerosky has said.
After Judge Stuard’s ruling, Kerosky said, “This has always been about providing for the safety of the children in our care. We are very happy the court’s decision allows us to continue to provide that protection.”
Judge Stuard noted that Children Services could avoid the problem by having the meetings in another location, “but that is the board’s business.”
Engler said the 20-year-old policy Kerosky refers to isn’t in writing and appears to have been used against Paridon and other members of her group specifically because of their criticism of Children Services.