Groveport Madison board members criticized

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Two Groveport Madison school board members came under fire from residents at the board’s Oct. 10 meeting.

Several members of the community brought forth concerns that board member Teresa Burch – who is running for re-election – has a conflict of interest regarding her family business. They alleged Burch, who is an active volunteer with the band boosters, was providing food for pre-game dinners for the band from OD on BBQ, a company Burch’s husband owns. Of particular concern was the fact that Burch has personally collected money from the students to pay for the meals.

Burch said she had been providing band members with dinners for 11 years, and only once has OD on BBQ provided food for the band members. She said she did not think it was a conflict of interest because the company did not make a profit on the dinners.

Burch said she turns in all receipts regarding the expenses for providing the food for the band dinners, and she prefers not to collect the money from the meals from students – but sometimes she has no choice.

"When I have enough help I don’t actually collect the money," she said.

Resident Steve Slyh, who is also running for a seat on the board of education, said he has called the state ethics commission and initiated an investigation into this matter.

"A board member cannot use their seat to promote their business," Slyh said. "As a public official, you are not allowed to partake in that kind of activity."

Later in the meeting, at the urging of board member John Kershner, the board voted to investigate the matter further. Kershner said Burch had been cautioned about mixing business with school matters previously.

"We’ve been through this very carefully," Kershner said. "It’s wrong. You know it’s wrong."

 

Burch was visibly upset and responded, "This is my 11th year providing the full meal deal for these kids. I never did it to earn money for anybody. You try pulling off a meal for these kids for $2."

 

She concluded, "If I have done something that anyone considers unethical, I am sorry – it was not my intent."

Board member Dr. Naomi Sealey also came under fire for her alleged behavior during a Sept. 7 football game at Groveport Madison High School. District resident Denise Henkel reported to the board that her daughter, who has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair, loves football season.

"Her brother is in the marching band she loves to watch the games," she said, noting she can only watch them from the ground level because of her wheelchair.

Henkel said after the band performed a group of people gathered in front of them. All squatted down so her daughter could see, except for one woman, whom Henkel said she asked nicely to move.

Henkel said the woman responded rudely, "We’ll move when we’re done." Later, Henkel said, she learned from onlookers that it was Dr. Sealey.

"The people around me thought it was very rude of you," she told Dr. Sealey.

Dr. Sealey said she was dealing with an issue with fighting at the time, and did not see Henkel’s daughter in the wheelchair. Sealey said she does not recall how she responded to Henkel, but said, "I can’t imagine me being that rude to you."

Dr. Sealey then apologized to Henkel several times.

"I apologize," she said. "What else can I do? I made a mistake."

Later in the meeting, Dr. Sealey added, "I do promise in the future I will be more considerate when dealing with volatile situations."

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