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Board member sues East Cleveland Board of Education over secret decision-making

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sunshine is the best disinfectant. Unfortunately, some Ohio officials don't understand that and operate their governments in secrecy.

EAST CLEVELAND, OHIO - East Cleveland Board of Education member Dr. Patricia A. Blochowiak today filed a lawsuit charging violations of Ohio's Open Meetings Act against the East Cleveland Board of Education.

Her suit seeks injunctive relief and damages. It was filed in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

The Complaint alleges the East Cleveland school-board members repeatedly made decisions without consulting the full board, announced board "decisions" despite no vote being taken, allowed committees to make decisions without consulting the full board or submitting matters to a vote, and failed to keep accurate minutes that permit the public to determine how decisions are made.

The Complaint alleges that during preparation for the 2013 Military Luncheon, board members had a "meeting" to discuss board business and there was no notice to the public about the meeting, the meeting was not open to the public and there was no vote taken on the business discussed. Certain board members made a similar improper decision on extensive expenditures for a school-board retreat without any public vote or notice to the public of the basis for those decisions.

The Complaint alleges that the board is required to evaluate the Superintendent and Treasurer on an annual basis and that the board has not done so since approximately 2008. The board made decisions in executive session-without submitting the matters to a vote-regarding the evaluations. And the public had no ability or opportunity to determine how or on what basis the board made the decisions.

The Complaint further alleges (and an audio recording confirms) that when Dr. Blochowiak reminded the board members that the only way the board can decide something is by taking a vote, board president Una Keenon replied, "Don't try to correct me anymore, lady."

Dr. Blochowiak is represented by Subodh Chandra and Sandhya Gupta of The Chandra Law Firm LLC.

Blochowiak's lead counsel, Subodh Chandra, said, "Ohio's Open Meetings Act requires our elected officials to conduct the public's business in the light of day. But despite the Act's clear requirements and Dr. Blochowiak's admonitions, certain members of the East Cleveland Board of Education appear determined to take-and hide from the public-official actions behind closed doors. The actions of these rogue public officials must be corrected."

Related Practice Areas
Government Ethics, Misconduct, Fraud, & AbuseOhio Public Records Act, Open Meetings Act, FOIA, & Sunshine Laws

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