STOW: A Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education member has sued the rest of the board and the district’s treasurer.
Rod Armstrong alleges the board broke state laws concerning open meetings and open records.
Named in the complaint, filed Monday in Summit County Common Pleas Court by attorney Warner Mendenhall on behalf of Armstrong, are the rest of the board members — Richard Spangler, Karen Wright, Karen Powers and Fred Bonacci — along with Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer Catherine Bulgrin.
“I’m trying to do the right thing,” Armstrong said. “You can’t just stand by. If you are bullied, you need to make a stand at some time and do it through the proper channels. It’s a lesson I want to teach the students.”
The suit states that during an executive session of the board on June 11, Superintendent Russell Jones told members that an investigation had confirmed allegations that Susan Schur, the high school’s principal, had changed the final grades of students — including one related to her.
According to the suit, board members were “improperly instructed to not disclose any of this information.”
The next day, Schur announced her retirement.
Armstrong became “concerned that the activities of Principal Schur were not going to be brought to the proper investigative bodies,” according to the lawsuit.
He then wrote a letter to state Superintendent Stan W. Heffner outlining the June 11 meeting.
Unbeknown to Armstrong, the district had reported the activities days before his own report to the Ohio Department of Education, the suit says.
Then, on Aug. 13, according to the suit, “the Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education, held an illegal executive session falsely stating the reason for the executive session.”
The suit states that as soon as “Armstrong became aware of the illegal nature of the executive session, he promptly announced that it was being held against the Ohio Revised Code and left the session.”
The board of education has not received the formal complaint but is aware one has been filed, school spokeswoman Jacquie Mazziotta said Thursday.
“We continue to uphold our obligation to protect confidentiality, Ohio Sunshine Law and particularly the duty each of us holds with regard to confidentiality and protecting the privilege of information,” the district said in a statement released Thursday. “We are confident when the truth is revealed, it will be proven there is no merit whatsoever to the reported allegations, and we are confident the board’s procedure and policies will be upheld.”
Under Ohio’s Sunshine Laws, residents are allowed access to most government meetings and records.
According to the district’s statement: “The board of education continues to make children and learning our primary focus. We look forward to continuing our tradition of excellence and providing every student in Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools an outstanding education.”
Armstrong said if he wins the lawsuit, he would give any monetary award back to the district.
“It’s not about the money,” he said. “It’s about doing the right thing for the district.”
He also said he plans to continue performing his job as an elected official.
The case has been assigned to Judge Tammy O’Brien.
Heather Beyer can be emailed at email@example.com.