Bethel resident sues school board, claiming open meetings violation

Bethel High School

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Bethel High School

TROY — A resident of the Bethel Local Schools district filed a complaint in a Miami County court claiming the Board of Education has violated Ohio’s Open Meetings Act.

The complaint filed Thursday by Bronwyn Croley is against the board of education as a whole and individual members Lydda Mansfield, Lori Sebastian, Natalie Donahue, Danny Elam and Jessica Franz.

Croley alleges the board has violated the Open Meetings Act, including last Dec. 7 during a district controversy involving a transgender student and use of a particular restroom.

The complaint alleges the board voted to go into a closed executive session to discuss pending or imminent litigation but did not have an attorney present either physically or electronically.

“Upon information and belief, respondent (board) also made a decision and took official action during that executive session regarding the trans-student’s demands and respondent never took an official action through a public vote thereafter,” the complaint alleges.

Lydda Mansfield, Bethel’s school board president, said the district had not yet officially received copies of the complaint.

“When we do, we’ll review it and determine what the appropriate response, if any, will be,” she said.

The complaint also alleges when the board goes into an executive session to discuss employment issues, it does not identify the specific permissible topic. It also claims the board does not take adequate minutes in most of its meetings. For example, the complaint alleges minutes fail to record any of the rationale or deliberations that took place before a vote on a range of topics.

The complaint asks the court to order the board and its members to not violate the Open Meetings Act, to order a $500 forfeiture per violation, invalidate action on any board deliberations found to be unlawful and order payment of attorney fees and court costs.

The complaint was filed by Matt Miller-Novak and Steven C. Davis of Barron, Peck, Bennie & Schlemmer Co. LPA of Cincinnati.

Judge Jeannine Pratt was assigned the case.

In a separate case, a petition was filed in the Common Pleas Court earlier this year and then later dismissed by residents seeking the removal of board members Mansfield, Sebastian and Elam. The dismissal retained the right to refile the case.

That lawsuit also involved the transgender student and restrooms controversy and claimed violations of the state’s public meetings law.

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