Tipp City group withdraws court effort to remove two school board members

Tipp City Concerned Citizens drop case vs. Dunaway and Zakkour, will focus on November school board election instead

TIPP CITY — A citizens group that had sought legal removal of two Tipp City school board members in a court process that lasted more than a year dismissed the action Tuesday.

The Tipp City Concerned Citizens filed notice of dismissal of their complaint without prejudice in Miami County Common Pleas Court. The dismissal reserves the right to file an action in the future.

The surprise dismissal came as a court hearing had been set for October on jurisdictional issues related to the attempt to remove Theresa Dunaway and Anne Zakkour from the board.

The complaint was filed in late 2021 after the board members rejected calls for their resignations. The complaint was filed along with petitions containing more than 1,000 signatures of registered voters in the Tipp City Exempted Village school district.

The complaint alleged Zakkour and Dunaway were willful and flagrant in exercise of authority and power; engaged in refusal or willful neglect to enforce the law and uphold their duties; exceeded the scope of their responsibilities and authority; and showed gross neglect of duty, misfeasance and/or nonfeasance in office.

Dunaway and Zakkour have denied any wrongdoing, and they did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

In a statement on the dismissal, the Tipp City Concerned Citizens cited legal delays over the past 15 months along with concerns about the effect of continued litigation on the school district’s needs, the November election for three board seats, and the district efforts to educate its children.

The Concerned Citizens stated they think the removal should take place, but that timing has interfered.

“Once the judge issued the court date of October 2023, it became clear there was little chance of a final decision by the court on the merits of the case before Dec. 31, 2023,” the organization wrote, noting the terms for Zakkour and Dunaway expire at year’s end.

Three board of education seats are on the November ballot. Those seats are now filled by Zakkour, Dunaway and Simon Patry. Candidates hoping to run in the November election must file with the Miami County Board of Elections by Aug. 9.

“It makes more sense for our community to focus on the significant challenges facing our school system. We need to get strong, capable candidates to run for the school board,” said Doug Cook, a Tipp City Concerned Citizens member.

The court case originally was assigned to Miami County Judge Jeannine Pratt, who recused herself in April 2022 and asked the Ohio Supreme Court to appoint a visiting judge. Judge William Wolff, a retired appeals court judge, was appointed in June.

“We have agreed that it’s not fiscally responsible or in the best interest of our community to continue through the legal process for removal of Dunaway and Zakkour,” said Karen Kaibas another Concerned Citizens member.

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