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Former board member wins case

By John Published: January 29, 2011

By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer

Former Cuyahoga Falls school board member Kellie Patterson sued the board in 2008 for violating Ohio open meetings laws and won in Summit County Common Pleas Court last April.

Since then, both sides have wrangled over whether the court should decide attorney fees before the board can appeal the decision.

This week, Magistrate John Shoemaker again ruled in Patterson's favor, awarding attorney fees of $30,575. He also awarded Patterson $785.75 to cover her court costs. He awarded Patterson $500 last April.

Patterson who was elected in 2005, but did not win enough votes for re-election in 2009 filed suit in 2008.

Shoemaker found ''at least eight'' violations of Ohio's open meetings law between 2006 and 2009 in his ruling last April.

The board met Friday and discussed Shoemaker's ruling, which still must be approved, rejected or modified by Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands.

Board president Terese Dunphy said that the board will not take action until that process is complete.

''Our attorney is continuing to pursue his representation of us in this case,'' Dunphy said. ''It's premature at this point to decide whether or not we're going to appeal.''

Patterson's attorney, S. David Worhatch, said he was prepared to settle the case for $4,400 the week he agreed to represent Patterson in November 2009. Patterson initially planned to represent herself.

Worhatch said he made two other offers to settle.

''They just never responded once,'' Worhatch said. ''As far as I'm concerned, their actions constituted rejection of each of those offers.''

Dunphy said the board's insurance will cover the magistrate's decision.

''The vast majority of our defense in this case is handled through an insurance fund just as all legal claims against the district are,'' Dunphy said. ''We're not talking about general fund dollars.''


John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or jhiggins@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.

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