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Parma City School District Board sued for defaming former superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Graham

CLEVELAND, OHIO - A complaint filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas court on Friday, May 19, 2017 by former Parma City School District Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Graham, alleges that the Parma City School District School Board defamed Dr. Graham when it published a letter falsely claiming that his leadership brought the District to financial ruin. Treasurer David Crowley and Communications Consultant Ray Sposet are believed to have helped in researching and drafting the letter.

On May 24, 2016, Parma City School District School Board and Superintendent Carl Hilling sent a letter to the District's staff, parents, and the community claiming that

  • Dr. Graham failed to track savings from consolidating elementary schools;
  • misled the board on the cost of technology upgrades;
  • failed to create a plan for the District's popular STEM program;
  • and left the District's finances in a "devastating" shape.

The complaint alleges that District Board members made these defamatory statements knowing that they were false and with reckless disregard for their falsity―Board members knew that to the contrary of their allegations, Dr. Graham's leadership helped bring the district back to financial health after it had been placed on the Ohio Department of Education's fiscal-caution program. Under his guidance, the district also modernized its technology program, developed a cutting-edge STEM program, and finally met its requirements to serve disabled students under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Parma School District may be in a leadership crisis right now," said lead-attorney Subodh Chandra. "But that does not mean the board can blame its current problems on its former superintendent. Before Dr. Graham arrived, the district had failed to pass a new levy on seven attempts. Not only did the district pass a new levy under Dr. Graham's leadership, but he also brought the district into the 21st century by upgrading its technological infrastructure. He was an exemplary superintendent."

Named as Defendants are the Parma City School District Board, and--in both their official and personal capacities--President John Tenerowicz, Superintendent Carl H. Hilling, Karen S. Dendorfer, Kathleen A. Petro, Lynn Halloran, Treasurer David Crowley, and Communications Consultant Ray Sposet.

The complaint may be read here. The case is assigned to Judge Pamela Barker and is Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV17880671.

Subodh Chandra and Marvin C. Brown IV of The Chandra Law Firm LLC, www.ChandraLaw.com, represent Dr. Graham.

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