Freshwater: Summary of legal proceedings and main players

I’ve been informed that I’ve been negligent in keeping the dramatis personae and various legal actions in the Freshwater affair clearly distinguished. Let me summarize below the fold.

Legal Proceedings

There are three legal actions currently in progress (using that word loosely).

  1. First is the administrative hearing held under state statutes to arrive at a recommendation concerning the Mount Vernon, Ohio, Board of Education’s Resolution of Intention to Consider Termination of John Freshwater’s contract as an 8th grade science teacher. Testimony and evidence gathering has ended and the parties have until July 26 to get their summary briefs to the referee and Aug 2 to get replies to their opponent’s summaries to him.

  2. Then there is Doe v. Mount Vernon Board of Education et al. This is the federal suit brought by the Dennis family against the Board, several administrators, and Freshwater on June 13, 2008. This proceeding has been the arena for the discovery shenanigans by Freshwater and Hamilton that I recently posted on, and the jury trial is due to start on July 26, 2010. Freshwater filed a counterclaim on Sept 2, 2008, which was dismissed on summary judgment (pdf) by the court on April 6, 2010. There was a partial settlement with the family in September 2009 and the Board and administration defendants were dismissed on Oct 1, 2009. Freshwater remains the sole defendant.

  3. Finally there is Freshwater v. Mount Vernon Board of Education et al.. This is a federal suit brought by Freshwater on June 9, 2009, against the Board and two individual Board members (Watson and Goetzman), several administrators, the Board’s attorney David Millstone, HR OnCall (the Board’s investigators) and its two principals individually, and 8 unnamed John and Jane Does. This suit is still in the depositions and discovery phase and has not yet been scheduled for trial. The same judge, Gregory Frost, is presiding over both trials. The Board’s attorney, David Millstone, was dismissed as a defendant by the federal judge.

Main Players

Referee R. Lee Shepherd of Poland Depler & Shepherd Co LPA, Shelby, OH. The referee was chosen from a slate of three proposed by the State Department of Education by agreement of the two sides. Shepherd has a private practice and is also the city attorney for Shelby. His demeanor is very difficult to read.

Mt. Vernon District Board of Education, which passed the resolution to initiate termination proceedings at its June 20, 2008, meeting. In particular, former member Ian Watson and current member Jody Goetzman are individual defendants in Freshwater’s federal suit noted below. Two new members were elected after the hearing was in progress for over a year, one a Freshwater supporter and fundraiser and father of a teacher who testified for Freshwater in the hearing (Steve Thompson), and one whose son testified against Freshwater in the hearing (Paula Barone). Both have recused themselves from discussions and voting on the federal suit in which the Board is still a defendant, and Barone has also recused herself from discussions and voting on the outcome of the administrative hearing. Both used the qualifying phrase “at this time” in their letters of recusal so nothing is set in concrete in that respect.

Steve Short, Interim Superintendent in late 2007 and appointed Superintendent in early 2008 when all this was blowing up.

David Millstone of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, attorney for the Mt. Vernon Board of Education for the hearing and for a while a defendant in Freshwater’s federal suit.

John Freshwater, middle school science teacher in Mt. Vernon Middle School who appealed the resolution of intent of the BOE to consider terminating him for cause.

R. Kelly Hamilton, formerly of of Hamilton & Hawkins (Grove City, OH) but now apparently a sole practitioner who is Freshwater’s attorney for the administrative hearing. Hamilton was formerly Freshwater’s attorney of record in Doe v. Mount Vernon BOE et al. and is currently attorney of record for Freshwater in Freshwater v. BOE et al.

There have also been several additional attorneys in the hearing more or less regularly, two representing Freshwater in the Doe v. Mount Vernon BOE et al. suit (retained by the district’s insurance company), one (Sarah Moore) who represented the BOE in the Doe suit (and maybe in the Freshwater v. BOE et al. suit) and one (Douglas Mansfield) representing the Dennis family in the Doe v. BOE et al. suit against Freshwater as the sole remaining defendant. There have been sundry others sitting in the hearing occasionally as observers in their various clients’ interests when they testified in the hearing. I think the peak during the administrative hearing was 8 attorneys in the room, though one or two of them may have been paralegals. Total billing that day had to be in excess of $1,500 per hour of the hearing session.