The Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education is filing a lawsuit against member Rod Armstrong seeking reimbursement of legal fees, spokesperson Jacquie Mazziotta announced Monday.
In a story by Beacon Journal education reporter Doug Livingston in July, Mazziotta said the lawsuits filed by Armstrong has cost the district "more than the equivalent of two teaching positions, including salaries and benefits, in litigation costs.”
The Armstrong has filed three lawsuits against his fellow school board members on issues, including a 2009 suit alleging the board used tax dollars to pay attorney fees for a levy committee as well as a 2012 suit claiming the board held an executive session without giving an accurate reason.
"They are spending more of the taxpayers money than anyone ever has," said Armstrong in response to the suit. "It's just a shame what they are doing. They are trying to make me look like the bad guy and make personal attacks on me and all I am trying to do is do the right thing for the district."
In Armstrong's 2013 lawsuit, he objects to the board’s practice of lumping multiple items on its agenda. He is seeking that each employee hiring or position creation be voted on individually.
Earlier this month, a Franklin County judge ruled in favor of Armstrong, saying the $20,000 paid for legal services in 2009 was an in-kind contribution by the district, and it should have been reported in the campaign finance statement.
The lawsuit is an "aggressive stance in this lawsuit is a reaction to having malfeasance exposed," Warner Mendenhall, an attorney representing Armstrong said via email on Monday afternoon.
"The district's counterclaim is the only frivolous claim in this lawsuit," Mendenhall said. "The district is supposed to follow its own rules and it doesn't; the district is required to turn over documents to Board of Education Members and it doesn't; and the district is not allowed to waste taxpayer dollars in support of Political Action Committees and it does."
He added the district "should celebrate people like Rod Armstrong who expose wrongdoing, instead it castigates them."
Below is the statement released by the school district on its most recent countersuit:
The Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education filed a response to legal allegations brought by Board member Rodney Armstrong asking the court to declare Armstrong a vexatious litigator and render a decision on frivolous lawsuits. A favorable ruling will allow the Board to request reimbursement for legal fees spent by the District as a result of the impending lawsuits.
“Our pleadings say these actions filed by Armstrong are patently frivolous and once the court agrees, the Board will be able to seek reimbursement from Armstrong for the legal fees incurred for these lawsuits,” said Attorney Adam Miller, legal counsel for the District.
The Board has requested the Summit County Court of Common Pleas name Armstrong a vexatious litigator and prevent him from filing further legal actions against the District without obtaining prior court approval. Vexatious litigation is legal action, regardless of merit, brought solely to harass and is considered abuse of United States law.
“We really wish Mr. Armstrong had sought to engage Board of Education members in a constructive manner rather than resort to costly lawsuits,” said Board President Karen Wright.
Past coverage of the various suits and countersuits: