Dayton Public Schools sued (again) for violating open meeting laws
The State of the Ohio has made a mockery of the “Sunshine Laws” making them the most toothless laws in the country.
Brian Ames has made a business out of suing public bodies in Ohio over their rampant wholesale violation of these laws, with the help of some attorneys who are just licking their chops, because, the way the State legislature bastardized these laws- lawyers are the only winners.
For this case, he’s hired the firm of Barron Peck Bennie & Schlemmer, of Cincinnati and attorney Matt Miller-Novak is in the drivers seat.
Ames has sued school districts all over the state, starting in 2016. In 2022 he set up a non-profit LLC Open Government Advocates, to use as a vehicle to build his lawsuit filing machine.
He chuckled as he told me with glee that he’d sued 5 different bodies this year on Valentines day. He’s been operating in his home county of Portage and; Columbia, Trumbull, Mahoning, Franklin, and now Montgomery. There is an appeal on the legality of the “Consent Degree” agenda system that Libby Lolli instituted early on in her reign of terror at Dayton Public Schools. It immediately stunk up the joint even more- sort of like a teen spraying Renuzit after smoking a nickle bag of bad weed in a small space.
Unfortunately for Ames and Miller-Novak, they’ve drawn Judge Richard Skelton who doesn’t give a rats butt about sunshine- as he made a mockery of the laws in my case 5 years ago about the illegal “School Closing Task force” that met in secret over the closing of Valerie School (you know- in the quadrant that is now bursting at the gills).
So far, the major journalistic establishment hasn’t really caught on to this one man crusade to embarrass as many public bodies as possible. Court News Ohio has called Ames and his ilk- Open Meeting “Bounty Hunters” and has covered his arguments (which follow mine- that it’s undefined as to what the $500 fine limits are- one instance, one lawsuit, or one body).
The real issue isn’t Ames, it’s the way the Sunshine Laws are poorly written- and the shifting all the risk to the public in prosecuting these cases. Even when you win, as I did vs the Dayton Metro Library, with an attorney, party puppet Judges like Gerald Parker can at their discretion, not award attorney fees. These laws need to change. And, the violators, should be held responsible- and removed from office- something that happens all the time in Florida, but never in Ohio.
After the May 22, 2023 School board meeting- an astute observer who used to be on the school board wrote on FB:
Interesting start to the meeting this evening. First order of business was to waive the 48 hour rule for the agenda items. Chrisondra Goodwine asks for a motion to approve. 7 seconds later, Will Smith does. 12 seconds after she asks for a second, seconds it herself.
Some discussion on why these items needed to be voted on at a special meeting less than 1 week after the business meeting. Various answers, but the one I loved was about the Cyberworks contract which was entered into the system the day of the Review Meeting, got stuck somewhere in the ether and was not spit out until after the Business Meeting. (I am taking huge liberties with the actual language )
Speaking of Cyberworks there was a contract for $50,000. Will Smith asked what the timeframe was for the consulting to be done. Dr. Lolli replied that she would provide an executive summary during executive session. (Dayton Board of Education – Special Meeting – May 22, 2023, 27 minutes in.)
From Board Docs:
Cyberworks will provide consulting and technical documentation and support in order to increase the district’s network availability and enhance user productivity.
What the hell (‘scuse my language) is so secret about enhancing productivity?
Of course, it is not executive session material but as we all know, it doesn’t make a lick of difference. In addition, the notice for executive session only refers to public employees and review of negotiations, not anything to do with a contract. Illegal 6 ways from Sunday, but again, who will hold them accountable? Certainly calling them out about it has no effect at all.
(Her husband) (who is an actual parliamentarian) told me someone in the audience should call out “Point of Order – this is not executive session material.” I will have to write that down.
The biggest discussion was reserved for the latest change order for the Welcome Stadium projects. It adds $6 million to the previously approved amount. Gabriella Pickett brought up again that in 2020 the board decided to use settlement money – approx. $6 million –for this project and donations would be solicited for the remainder. Nothing was done until about last fall. So no, not really any money received.
The board had had a discussion of the final price of $32 million, but realized they never discussed where the final $6 million would come from. Then another discussion on where to get the money and should it be an advance or a transfer.
Chrisondra wanted to make a transfer of funds rather than an advance. Advances are paid back, but transfers are not. I think it is a realization that the “fundraising” will be a bust. It was also brought up that the “fundraising” was really tied to a new Field House ($11 million) and an extra field ($1.5 million). To put the extra $6 million in there would essentially make the effort a joke (Again, I paraphrase).
The contract for Band Uniforms was defeated seemingly because Chrisondra did not like the designs and Dion Sampson questioned the decision-making process.Facebook-
The current board has zero clue about the sunshine laws, what’s appropriate for executive session, or the liability they are exposing the district to. I’m guessing they are about to get an education. Other boards are smart enough to settle quickly – and hope it goes away. That will never happen in Dayton, one would swear that the board members have a kickback agreement with their various law firms for the amount of business they’ve farmed out- or caused.
Thankfully, voters will be able to remove Will Smith, Dion Sampson and Dr. Gabriella Picket this fall- assuming any of them decide to run again.
As to every school board, city commission, township trustee, board of elections, county commission in the State of Ohio- read this filing, and be aware, there’s a new Sheriff in the State- and his name is Brian Ames, and he’s going to make you miserable.
Mr. Ames sent me discovery filing- where he discloses how many other organizations he’s filed against. The list is impressive. Starts on page 12 ends on page 16.
He also sent the actual rules for board notifications of meetings as well.
I’m entertaining guesses from readers how long it will take the Dayton Daily newsless to get this story…. put number of days in comments.
I published this story on Wed. Friday night the daytondaily clueless ran the story on their email blast and “published” it in their Saturday- not printed on paper edition.
Of course- zero credit to Esrati.com for breaking the story.