Tipp City school board members targeted for removal request court throw out petitions

Tipp City Board of Education President Theresa Dunaway, left, and Vice President Anne Zakkour.
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Tipp City Board of Education President Theresa Dunaway, left, and Vice President Anne Zakkour.

Two Tipp City Exempted Village Schools Board of Education members targeted by removal petitions on Wednesday asked a Miami County judge to dismiss the petitions.

Lawyers for Theresa Dunaway and Anne Zakkour filed the motions to dismiss in Common Pleas Court where the Tipp City Concerned Citizens filed the removal petitions in December.

Dunaway and Zakkour last year served as the board president and vice president, respectively, and were asked by residents beginning in May to resign their board positions or face the removal effort.

Dunaway and Zakkour said they had done nothing wrong and would not resign.

The removal complaint said their continued presence on the board was harmful to the district.

“Dunaway and Zakkour should be removed from office because their further presence in office is harmful to the Tipp City Exempted Village Schools, its administration and students,” the removal complaint claimed. “The gravity and frequency of the instances are so serious as to endanger and threaten the education of students and is highly detrimental to the image of the school district.”

The complaint more specifically alleged Dunaway and Zakkour violated Ohio’s Sunshine Law by discussing matters outside the topics stated in the public motion to meet in private and topics not proper for the closed session. Other allegations in the complaint included claims the two board members engaged in “improper exercise of authority without approval of the entire board, improper use of authority for personal gain and abuse of power.”

Both of Wednesday’s motions to dismiss the complaints argued the petitions do not comply with state law and procedures for removal.

The complaint was “so vague and ambiguous that the respondent (Dunaway) cannot reasonably answer or defend against this complaint,” wrote Jeremy Tomb, Wayne Waite and Patrick Janis of Troy, Dunaway’s lawyers.

Zakkour’s lawyers R. Gary Winters and Bernard W. Wharton of Cincinnati argued the allegations against her “are insufficient under the law as they are either restatements of the grounds for removal contained in (the revised code), involve matters that would not constitute misconduct in office, or are simply conclusions of law.”

The motions claimed the petitioners did not follow procedures for verifying the signatures of those who signed petitions as registered voters. The around 1,500 signatures were not checked by the board of elections, which is required, the lawyers wrote.

The motions also argued that the removal petitions provide no facts or details of alleged actions that can be challenged by the two board members.

Dunaway’s motion stated the complaint “provides conclusory statement that ‘numerous administrators and other staff members have either left or resigned because of the turmoil created by Dunaway and Zakkour.’ No specific ‘employee’ is mentioned nor are there any facts to support the conclusion that some action by Dunaway and, or Zakkour proximately caused or contributed to an ‘employee’ leaving employment.”

The motions will be considered by Judge Jeannine Pratt.

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com

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