Groveport Madison Board of Education embroiled in lawsuit

By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Editor
Two members of the Groveport Madison Board of Education filed a lawsuit against the other three members of the board.

According to documentation from the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, plaintiffs and board members Kathleen Walsh and John Kershner filed the complaint against defendants and board members Libby Gray, LaToya Dowdell-Burger, and Seth Bower regarding the Ohio Open Meetings Act.

According to the complaint, Walsh and Kershner allege the board violated the Ohio Open Meetings Act: by not always properly motioning or stating a reason to enter executive (closed) sessions; its committees met privately; by having private round-robin discussion to survey a majority of board members about a contract; by not always properly providing notice for meetings; and by changing meeting minutes thereby making them inaccurate or incomplete.

“I tried to inform the other board members that they were not in compliance with the Open Meetings Act, but they would not listen to my pleas to conduct themselves properly,” said Walsh. “This was the only option left to bring the board into compliance.”

Dowdell-Burger, Gray, and Bower released the following statement in response to the lawsuit: “In response to the recent lawsuit, we want to express our disappointment in our colleague’s recent decision to misuse the legal system by filing a frivolous action. We would prefer to see the board’s finite resources dedicated to sustained student achievement. This situation does not reflect the Board of Education’s values or commitment to our students’ well-being and education. The Groveport Madison Schools Board of Education remains focused on our mission to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for all students.”

The complaint includes exhibits citing the board’s meetings of July 19, 2023; Aug. 9, 2023; Oct. 11, 2023; and a policy manual notation on board committees adopted Dec. 13, 2023.

According to the complaint, Kershner and Walsh seek legal remedies to the alleged Ohio Open Meetings Act violations including: injunctive relief (which restrains a party from doing certain acts or requires a party to act in a certain way. It is generally only available when there is no other remedy at law and irreparable harm will result if the relief is not granted); statutory forfeitures; invalidation of unlawful acts; attorney fees; costs and expenses; and other relief the court deems as proper.

According to documentation and case schedule from the Franklin County Clerk of Courts – due to pre-trial conferences, disclosures, and motions – the Franklin County Common Pleas Court may not hear the case until March 25, 2025.

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