Today Judge Richard Skelton dismissed the case Esrati vs DPS and Dayton City Commission on imaginary legal precedent.
“However, as indicated in the Court’s decision denying the motion for a preliminary injunction, there is no evidence that any deliberations occurred during the bus tour or any discussion of the prospective closing of school buildings.”
There is no provision in ORC 121.22 to qualify meetings based on if deliberations took place. Common sense also says, you can’t prove what did or did not happen in a meeting if you can’t enter the room.
The video of the actual actions of the task force was in evidence, but never reviewed. The problem with the OMA is that our legislators in Columbus who wrote it, and then kept adding to it, would flunk the third grade reading guarantee. It’s a bunch of convoluted language with references to penalties that never get handed out- mostly because they really don’t want the public to use it to guarantee open honest government.
Skelton’s decision. Click to download PDF
I’m not going to recount the whole argument- but, I originally filed to stop the bus tour, because that was pressing. I should have filed a simple OMA case- for all the violations- the attempts to throw me out, the actual keeping me out, the banning of audio and video recording equipment. Those are all punishable violations.
I will appeal the case, and hopefully, smarter judges will understand that laws that are only enforceable by lawyers – to protect the general public from bad behavior of people in power, aren’t really protecting anyone.
It’s too bad Skelton never watched the video evidence that the School board lawyer denied the existence of. Because if he had watched it- a 3rd grader would have seen that there was a violation.
Here’s his decision for summary judgement for the defense.
Judge Skelton’s decision, click to download full pdf
Judge Richard Skelton issued his ruling around 1:30 today. I was on an airplane headed back to Cincinnati from a quick trip to Tampa.
I went live on Facebook from the airport, and then spent the trip back to Dayton talking the case over with friends who know mire than me, and calling the Ohio Attorney General’s Open Government Unit.
The decision was a split. I won on the major issue of if the task force was a public body and had to comply with the Open Meetings Act. That was a major hurdle- after the amount of BS the defense threw at the Judge claiming it wasn’t.
However, the judge refused to offer a temporary injunction banning the board from acting on the school closings because he said I failed to prove that the bus tour engaged in deliberations.
First, how could I tell the judge what happened in a meeting I wasn’t allowed to attend?
And, second, since the issue wasn’t subject to the privilege of executive session, the meeting was illegal.
But, Lolli said on the stand, they just observed and got briefed. The Judge created some kind of third kind of meeting- that isn’t defined by law- of an “information gathering session” which he thinks is exempt from public scrutiny. Here he makes an error. The contents of a meeting that isn’t open- and isn’t covered by executive session rules- is illegal. Period. (if any of you want to transcribe her lies, and put the time code of what she says and put it in comments- I’d be very appreciative).
You can watch the video of the court proceedings and hear Lolli use the “noise of the bus” as an excuse to say no discussions took place. Only problem is, the newspaper reporter, Jeremy Kelley of the Dayton Daily News wrote an article that day that said discussion did take place:
When the bus arrived, acting DPS superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said any members of the group who were tied to Dayton city government should not take part in the tour. City Commissioner Jeff Mims said that was because of “legal issues we’re dealing with.”
The remaining members of the task force briefly toured Valerie Elementary’s kitchen, gym/cafeteria, mechanical rooms and one classroom that was not in use. At 52 years old, Valerie is one of the few schools that pre-dates DPS’ building boom of last decade.
Lolli and associate superintendent Sheila Burton gave task force members detailed data on where the students attending each DPS school live, to show population concentrations, and how many students are traveling across the city each day.
As the task force headed back to the bus, Lolli told the group that legal counsel for the school district had advised the task force to stop the remaining school tours.
The group’s bus then drove to the two remaining schools, Meadowdale and Wogaman, stopping in each parking lot for a few minutes to hear information about enrollment numbers and each school’s physical condition. At each stop, one or two task force
members asked questions seeking clarity on the data. But the task force members did not leave the bus, and eventually returned to DPS headquarters.
As far as did they violate the law- it’s obvious they did. Why the judge refuses to stop them from adopting resolutions based on illegal meetings is beyond me.
The board is also trying to hastily hire Libby Lolli tomorrow night at 5pm. I highly recommend all of you come out and suggest that they haven’t done their due diligence or provided the public enough time to review the contract or the terms. Hiring a superintendent in the midst of turmoil is exactly how the last bad decision to hire a superintendent got made.