Tipp City school board asks for investigation by prosecutor’s office

Tippecanoe High School. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
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Tippecanoe High School. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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After heated exchanges among members, the Tipp City Exempted Village Schools Board of Education voted, 3-2, Monday to ask the Miami County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate allegations of illegal and unethical conduct in a proposed censure resolution.

The resolution of censure was presented to the board at its June 28 meeting by member Simon Patry, who proposed a vote to censure the full board.

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Patry said he thought there were “serious offenses that are occurring by some of the members of our board … serious violations of our bylaws, our policies, our code of ethics and the Ohio Open Meetings Act.”

In his opinion, Patry said, “we all share in the blame” for the current turmoil in the district and calls by community members for resignations of some board members and criticisms of the overall board focus in its meetings. The resolution of censure was defeated, 3-2, on June 28.

In a July meeting, the board voted 3-1 to ask district attorneys to look into the allegations.

At Monday’s meeting the board first voted to waive attorney-client privilege and board member Anne Zakkour read a response to that request by district lawyer, Hellen Carroll.

Carroll said she respectfully declined to issue a legal opinion. She said she couldn’t determine answers without an investigation of the “factual basis of alleged misconduct” of the board or any of its members. She recommended the board, if interested, seek a legal opinion from the prosecutor’s office and pose ethical violation questions to the Ohio Ethics Commission.

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Voting for the prosecutor’s investigation were Patry, Zakkour and Theresa Dunaway. Voting no were Corine Doll and Joellen Heatherly.

Heatherly reminded the board of community members’ calls for the board to focus on district business, not personal disputes. “This will drive us further into the weeds … Why would we tie up the Miami County Prosecutor’s Office?” she said.

Zakkour said she believed the prosecutor’s office would present an objective opinion. “I feel this is owed to the community,” she said.

The censure resolution proposed by Patry focused on things he doesn’t like, Doll said.

“How much time should we as a board dedicate to Simon’s feelings about things he does not like? It is going to take more and more hours away from what our focus should be - students, staff, buildings, curriculum, education,” Doll said. “If we all made a list of things that we don’t like about each other and then have the Miami County prosecutor investigate each other, this very well could take five months.”

Doll said she wanted the board to “move on … focus on the schools again.”

Dunaway said the board should have spent the first board meeting of the new school year discussing students and good things taking place in the district. Instead, it again was spending more time on topics such as the censure.

Board members “have a right to clear our name,” Dunaway said, adding, “My point is, how did we get this low?”

Patry said he continues to stand by statements made in the proposed censure resolution. The document, he said, “was to identify issues I think need to be corrected … I didn’t name anybody specifically. I wanted to share the blame with everyone.”

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