The Hamilton school board still wasn’t talking during their Tuesday meeting about the circumstances around the recent resignation of Superintendent Tony Orr, but a former board candidate — who claims his campaign last fall was sabotaged by Orr — was.
Hamilton Board of Education President Steve Isgro re-iterated before the public comment portion of the meeting that district officials don’t have the independent investigation into allegations about Orr’s behavior before he was ordered on paid leave on Feb. 5.
The Journal-News was the first to obtain and report on an attorney, who represented two female Hamilton school employees, sending a letter on Jan. 19 to district officials detailing a list of allegations against Orr, including sexual harassment, fostering a hostile work place and attempting to influence last fall’s board election.
Orr was also accused in the letter of “ordering subordinates to delete district email records.”
That attorney’s letter prompted school officials to hire a private investigator to compile a report on the allegations against Orr.
But despite numerous Ohio Public Records requests from the Journal-News, Hamilton school district officials maintain the report is covered under attorney-client privilege laws and that their district lawyer has the only copies of the document.
“At this time we can’t provide any information from the report,” Isgro told the three dozen audience members at the Hamilton Schools Central Office meeting room.
But former Hamilton school board candidate Chris Mate, who ran and lost his election last fall for the board, quickly filled the vacuum by taking to the podium and blasting the board’s continued silence.
Mate singled out fellow board candidates — now board members — Isgro, Rob Weigel and Laurin Sprague, saying all three had “talked about how they believed in transparency and that the business of the school board should be conducted in the full light of public view.”
“The decision by this board to withhold the (report) findings of the independent investigation of Tony Orr are in direct conflict with those statements,” said Mate, who claimed last fall anonymous emails smearing him cost him a seat on the board.
“Now you are using the ruse of attorney-client privilege to keep the report secret. I believe this report contains information indicating Tony Orr was behind those emails and may have had help from school district staff,” Mate — a former district official with Hamilton Schools — told the board.
“We elected you and you used public tax money for the investigation. The allegations presented (in the attorney’s letter) are troubling. If even some of them proved to be true, Mr. Orr should have been fired with no severance,” Mate said of Orr’s resignation April 12 with a separation agreement that pays him through July and then a lump sum payment of $130,000.
“As a victim of Mr. Orr’s unethical and unprofessional behavior — and a taxpayer — I believe I, along with our entire community, are entitled to the findings in the report,” said Mate, who now works as the assistant principal of curriculum and academics for Badin High School, a private Catholic school in the city.
Mate, however, offered no evidence of Orr’s involvement in the emails circulated last fall critical of his candidacy.
No other speakers before the board addressed any circumstances regarding the investigative report or Orr’s work in the district or his departure.
When asked to comment on the reported allegations, Orr told the Journal-News Monday: “On the advice of my attorney, I decline to make any comment.”
Hamilton Schools’ attorney William Deters II has not responded to multiple requests from the Journal-News to comment regarding the investigative report or the letter sent to him on Jan. 19 listing the allegations against Orr.
Stay with the Journal-News for continued coverage on these issues and Hamilton Schools.
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