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Austintown schools chief, board member file police reports



Published: Fri, November 8, 2013 @ 12:10 a.m.

Austintown schools chief, board member file police reports

photo

Colaluca

photo

Porter

By Kalea Hall

khall@vindy.com

Austintown

An ongoing dispute between a school board member and the superintendent has led to a police report alleging bullying and unwanted remarks.

The dispute also raises questions on whether the board’s special meeting Thursday to further discuss the matter violated the state’s Sunshine Law.

At issue is what was said between board member Harold Porter and Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca at an Oct. 22 meeting.

Colaluca maintains that Porter bullied him.

Porter maintains that Colaluca has made unwanted comments directed at him.

After both filed complaints with Austintown police, the school board called for a special board meeting Thursday to include an executive session, to, according to a release to the media, consider “employment of a public employee, the investigation of charges or complaints against a public employee/official and to confer with an attorney for the board concerning disputes involving the board that are subject of pending or imminent court action.”

“There have been allegations by the superintendent toward a board member, and in turn there have been allegations made conversely from the board member toward the superintendent,” board President David Schnurrenberger said in response to questions from a Vindicator reporter attempting to determine whether the meeting fell within the proper legal definition of an executive session, or a meeting closed to the public.

After adjourning the meeting, the board said in a handwritten statement given to The Vindicator: “The board will be investigating the respective complaints. To ensure the integrity of the process the board will not discuss further in public until the investigation is concluded.”

According to the Ohio Revised Code, a public body can hold closed sessions — called executive sessions — only for narrow and specific reasons. One of those reasons is to “consider ... the investigation of charges or complaints against a public employee” or official in a meeting closed to the public.

“I’m very skeptical that the Legislature intended that all of the members of an elected public body can convene a closed session to investigate a complaint by or against one of those members — who is also one of those conducting the purported investigation,” said David Marburger, attorney and author of the Ohio handbook on public access laws, “Access with Attitude.”

“Interpreting the Sunshine Law to allow that is ludicrous,” he added.

Both Porter and Colaluca attended the hourlong session and stayed for an unspecified amount of time.

“Also, since the board is the final arbiter of whether to discipline or demote or fire a school district employee, I’m skeptical that the Sunshine Law allows the body that will decide an employee’s fate also to investigate the validity of a complaint against that employee — and do that in secret,” said Marburger, also The Vindicator’s attorney.

“That raises questions about whether the employee is being denied due process because the board would be ruling on its own investigation when deciding whether to punish the employee — and I can’t believe that the Legislature would adopt a law designed to undermine the due-process rights of public employees,” he said.

In addition, the code specifically says “... the law does not allow a public body to hold an executive session to consider the discipline of an elected official for conduct related to the performance of the elected official’s duties ...”

While the board would not say which member was being investigated Thursday, Colaluca, on Oct. 29, contacted Austintown police to report he had been threatened by Porter.

Porter told police he stated during an Oct. 22 school board meeting, during his comment period, that he saw Colaluca at an Austintown and Boardman middle-school football game wearing a Boardman shirt.

Colaluca lives in Boardman.

“Their biggest complaint was when they saw their leader wearing a Boardman Spartans shirt to the AMS/Boardman game,” Porter said at the Oct. 22 meeting. “I am all for supporting your kid, but sometimes you have to go neutral, and I am pretty sure the mortgage is paid for by the red and blue, not the white and maroon.”

After Porter’s speech, Colaluca also presented to the board his feelings toward Porter, including that Porter violated board policy.

“Mr. President [Schnurrenberger], we had two students talk about bullying, and I do need to put the board of education on notice that I feel I am being bullied by Mr. Porter and intimidated,” Colaluca said.

Colaluca recited board policies at the meeting specifically citing a prohibition against “criticiz[ing] employees publicly.”

“One of my duties as superintendent is to uphold board policy for all employees and staff members, and the board of education has to live by these board policies because you are paid by the Austintown School District. So I ask the board president to inform all board members that they must follow the board policy, and Mr. Porter has violated almost every one of these ethics violations,” Colaluca said at the meeting.

Colaluca told police that after the Oct. 22 board meeting, Porter walked by him and said something he could not hear. Colaluca told police he did tell Porter to stop telling lies about him. Colaluca saw another board member walk Porter out of the Austintown Middle School cafeteria where the meeting was conducted.

Two days later, a board member told Colaluca that Porter had threatened Colaluca, according to the superintendent’s statement to police.

Porter told police after the board meeting that he heard Colaluca “chirping and yapping” that Porter lied when he told the board and community about the Boardman shirt.

Porter said Colaluca would not stop “going at” him verbally, so he told a board member to tell Colaluca to stop “or I’m going off on him,” though he maintained he had no intentions of physically harming Colaluca.

He then asked the board member to escort him out because he had to pass Colaluca to leave the room.

The police report states the prosecutor was unable to pursue criminal charges.

The dispute between Porter and Colaluca has been ongoing. Last year, Porter sent an email to Colaluca and the rest of the school board asking for Colaluca’s resignation. He called Colaluca a “dictator” and an inadequate leader, according to Vindicator files.

Colaluca responded with a letter stating Porter made “false and defamatory statements about me.”

He distributed the letter at a school board meeting Sept. 19, 2012.


Comments

1KLee(18 comments)posted 1 year ago

"Porter told police after the board meeting that he heard Colaluca “chirping and yapping” that Porter lied when he told the board and community about the Boardman shirt." - Why the heck would Colaluca bother to lie about this? He has been seen at other events sitting on the Boardman side (this has happened numerous times), as well as appeared in a Boardman warm up suit at a YSU tailgate party the Austintown students had been invited to. Porter wasn't even asking him to wear Falconwear, just something neutral. Some people may think it is no big deal, but if you were president of Ohio State, would you go sit on the Michigan side or wear Michigan apparel to Ohio State functions? Not likely. Bad form...
"Colaluca told police that after the Oct. 22 board meeting, Porter walked by him and said something he could not hear. Colaluca told police he did tell Porter to stop telling lies about him. Colaluca saw another board member walk Porter out of the Austintown Middle School cafeteria where the meeting was conducted." - Not sure where the reporter got the location from, but the 10/22 BOE meeting was held at Austintown Elementary, not Middle School.

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2gcarino(2 comments)posted 1 year ago

What Mr. Porter said at that meeting was exactly what is on the minds of "MANY" Austintown residents. There were no "lies".There was never a threat made towards Vince Colaluca, the public can view the tape of this meeting. He certainly was offended by what was said, sometimes the truth hurts. I for one applaud Mr Porters efforts to make him aware of the thoughts of a lot of us. For Colaluca to waste the precious time of our police dept with such a ridiculous claim that he was bullied is ludicrous. While all the time he and the BOE ignores the childrens cry for help when they expressed their concerns over being bullied themselves. Shame on Vince Colaluca.

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3new_in_town(2 comments)posted 1 year ago

Mr. Porter said EXACTLY what was on the mind of every informed Austintown parent at that meeting. The superintendent just won't hold any accountability for anything he has done wrong. He constantly and consistently points his finger at other people citing fault. I'm so sure someone else picked his shirt out for that football game. *rolls eyes* Harold the parents of Austintown, who take active informed roles in the learning of their children support you. Thank you for carrying our voices further.

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4Wapiti(139 comments)posted 1 year ago

Mr. Colaluca resign. You're type of leadership is not needed in Austintown. You're overpaid and do little if anything for the good of Austintown students and teachers. You go so far as to deny any students are being bullied. Yet you are the first one to cry you're being bullied. Colaluca quit, get off the board, step down from your position. Austintown doesn't need your overpriced self.

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5FalconsMom(1 comment)posted 1 year ago

Mr. Porter needed to speak out. He is the only BOE member who will listen to parents' concerns. He tries to help. But, unfortunately he is the minority.Too many Austintown residents blindly follow the board. Hopefully, this opens their eyes. The BOE members may be nice people, but it is crystal clear that they do not have our students or our residents' best interests in mind. There have been parents voicing safety concerns for over a year now. These parents even have offered solutions to said problems. The BOE denies there are issues. The board needs to come together with parents. They also need better communication. For at least 2 years, they've been planning on building a new high school and changing Fitch as early as next year to an academy. It may even be a good idea, but none of this has even been brought up at a meeting. Good communication is key to trust. Hopefully, our board will realize that we, the tax payers pay their salary. Hence, our input should be included.

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6falconsupport(1 comment)posted 1 year ago

Porter and his supporters putting to much time and effort into creating bad publicity for austintown. Makes the whole town look like cry babies when its only a vocal few.

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7neutralvoice(1 comment)posted 1 year ago

Many comments on here offer an opinion that "MANY", or "most" Austintown citizens support Harold Porter. However, there was an election held in Austintown on Tuesday and if you look at the results of the election, it is obvious that Mr. Porter is in the tiny minority. It was well known that at least one or two of the candidates for Austintown Board of Education were supporters of Harold Porter and his negative campaign. When the votes were counted, both of those candidates lost big time. Apparently from this alone Mr. Porter does NOT have a lot of support in Austintown.

I attended the BOE meeting on Oct. 22 and personally witnessed the events reported and saw Mr. Porter attempt to start a fight with Mr. Colaluca, an obvious attempt to "bully" Mr. Colaluca. What is even more upsetting is that Mr. Porter had staged several of the speeches made by Austintown students at the meeting. These students were obviously coached by Mr. Porter to speak out against bullying and they did so eloquently, a credit to their education at Austintown schools. Then Mr. Porter totally discredited himself by turning around and attempting to bully Mr. Colaluca, in front of the very students Mr. Colaluca is charged with supervising.

Another area where Mr. Porter continues to discredit himself is with regard to bus safety. Austintown schools transportation department has one of the best safety records in the state of Ohio. Most of the "safety" complaints heard at the board meetings are repeatedly made by the same individual and his complaint is that his daughter is not picked up at the end of his driveway and she has to walk a short distance to the designated bus stop. This is standard transportation policy and has been for many years. Ask yourself if you are following a school bus in the morning, do you really want the bus to stop every 100 ft. to pick up a single student? Buses have to operate efficiently and safely and such a procedure is not efficient and not safe as it encourages "stop light" violations by cars following the bus.

It is obvious that Mr. Porter is out of step with the majority of Austintown residents and should realize his actions are damaging the very school system he claims to love and support. Mr. Porter should reconsider the course of this campaign he has embarked on and learn to work with the rest of the board of education instead of acting like a spoiled child who doesn't always get his way.

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8DwightK(1287 comments)posted 1 year ago

Cat fight! Cat fight!

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9AtownParent(562 comments)posted 1 year ago

"neutralvoice" is not so neutral. Your name should be "employed by ALSD".

I do agree with "falconpride", it is time to end this. On the eve of a playoff game, this is not the type of article that should be in the paper. We should be rallying around our football players - there should be positive things coming out about them, not more of this crap.

LET'S GO FALCONS!!!

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10stan_smagala(56 comments)posted 1 year ago

They both sound like punks.

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112greatkidzmom(1 comment)posted 1 year ago

neutralvoice......
you don't even know how very WRONG you are! Two of the children that spoke at the BOE meeting happen to be MY children. They were NOT coached by Mr. Porter to speak,, furthermore, their eloquent speeches were NOT a credit to their Austintown education, as my son WAS a HIGH HONOR ROLL student before he entered into ALSD, where now his education is not even close to what it should be! MY CHILDREN WERE COACHED BY THEIR HEARTS!!! Mr. Porter had NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING to do with what was said at that meeting.
How sad it is that YOU can hide behind your poster name and make those accusations- another adult trying to take away from those children what they were trying to get across to the board! Shame on you!!! Those children LIVE it everyday, and they have every right to voice their opinions and thoughts!!!
Why not tell everyone on here who you really are?My name is Monica Proctor, and my children, spoke out at the board meeting on Oct. 22, 2013- only to be disregarded and discredited by yet, another adult. You are no better than the other board members who took away from those kids what that felt is an honest and ongoing problem in those schools!!!

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12Metz10987(145 comments)posted 1 year ago

Vince is the bully here. He has to go. regardless of what some may think or want to Porter is being called a bad guy ad bully by most of the board and Vince who do nothing but lie and bicher and do little to nothing to protect our kids or even do their job. They all have to go except for Porter and the 2 newly elected board members and fast as this sideshow will only get worse. Do not believe a word Vince says as he is just like Obama a big fat liar who has doe nothing except bring our school system down and make it look bad.

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13THIRTYSFORD(14 comments)posted 1 year ago

Vince Colaluca is a bully himself. I know this because I worked in the school system for a few years. I saw first hand how he talks to employees and the lack of interest he has towards important issues. He is very condescending. Just attend a few BOE meetings and you too will see and hear the truth. His main interest is to build new buildings and make Austintown Schools a "campus". Which he has now done, with the exception of replacing Fitch High School. (that is next on his agenda) He also wants to sub-contract all non-teaching positions in the district to the lowest bidder. Rachel Wixey is just the tip of the iceberg. (Rachel Wixey is a company located in Toledo Ohio that takes care of call offs and substitutes.)
Mr. Porter is a the only board member we have currently, that actually listens to and cares about what the children and parents say and tries to address these concerns.

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14HSG(137 comments)posted 1 year ago

All hail to Nero's Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
while everyone is asking which side are you on?
They all play on penyywhistles
you can hear them blow
if you lean your head out far enough
on Desolation Row

-from "Desolation Row" by Bob Dylan, 1965

all that being said, it's nice to see the 'leadership' of one of the largest districts in the community engaged in this sort of childish bickering, and as always quite gallant of The Vindicator to portray all this as some crucial element in community life.

On the other hand, it does provide a rather comical diversion from the incessant stream of reported violence and chaos from YTown itself. jus sayin' you know

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