An Oregon resident has begun distributing petitions to recall Oregon school board members Carol-Ann Molnar, Diana Gadus and Board President Richard Gabel.
Michael Gavioli, a former member of the now defunct political action committee Oregon Residents for Efficient and Effective Schools, announced the petition drive during the public forum held last week to discuss the results of a public survey.
Gavioli said he had asked the board members to resign at a previous board meeting on May 15.
“I asked them to resign due to their incompetence. I gave them time to let me know what they were going to do,” Gavioli said after the meeting. “I have since drawn up petitions to get them removed.”
The constitution of the State of Ohio does not provide a recall election process for school board members.
According to Hollie Reedy, chief legal counsel for the Ohio School Boards Association, there are statutes that allow for the removal of a school board member for gross neglect of duty, misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance.
“There is a process in the Ohio Revised Code, 3.07 and 3.08, under general provisions, for the removal of a school board member,” Reedy said. “There has to be accusations of misconduct, that can be proven, and the complaint must be filed in common pleas court.”
Petitions listing those charges must be signed by qualified electors living in the school district. The number of signatures must be at least 15 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the most recent election.
“This is not a recall vote which is basically a popularity contest,” Reedy said. “This is not about a difference of opinion on how the district should be run. There must be proof of misconduct, not that we disagree with you or we just don’t like you.”
Petitions are filed every year, across the state.
“I hear about two or three every year,” Reedy said, adding there are 710 school boards in Ohio. “Generally, the petitions do not result in the removal of the members.”
There have been a few cases in which petitions were successful and board members were removed by courts in Ohio.
The Rock Hill Local Schools, located near Ironton, in southern Ohio, had board members removed twice, in 2006 and 2009, Reedy said.
In 2004, board members were removed from office on the Madison-Plains Local School District, located in London, Ohio.
In that case, board members were found guilty of violating the Ohio Open Meetings Act, the Ohio Public Records Act and illegally delegating authority to one single member of the board.
“The board also employed someone to teach Spanish who they knew did not speak Spanish or was not certified to teach Spanish and board members were hiring family members,” Reedy said. “In court, they must prove misconduct. There has to be an element of ‘knowing.’ Nonfeasance is not doing what you needed to do. Misfeasance is making a mistake doing what you legally can do and malfeasance is doing something you knew was against the law and doing it any way. It has happened where board members have been removed, but it is not frequent.”
According to Gavioli, the petition contains three separate charges.
The first charge is that Gadus, Molnar and Gabel refuse or willfully neglect to enforce the law, specifically, the Ohio Sunshine Law pertaining to information requests, Gavioli said.
Gavioli and others have made several public information and records requests that have either gone unanswered or had taken longer than normal to receive.
“I was asking for information on the wind turbines,” he said. “I asked to see the agreements with one company and I asked why there were no competitive bids.”
The second charge on the petition, according to Gavioli, states the three board members are guilty of gross negligence of duty by not adhering to board policies, the role of board members and the board’s mission statement.
The third charge concerns misfeasance, he said.
“They approved a lease agreement on the wind turbines when no agreement existed,” Gavioli said.
Gavioli said he will need 1,429 signatures before paperwork can be filed with the Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
Gabel and Molnar would not comment.
Gadus told The Press that every request from Gavioli for public records has been honored.
“To my knowledge, every record he has asked for, he has received,” said Gadus.
Regarding the wind turbines, Gadus said the board approved an agreement for the wind turbines to allow the process to move forward.
“We supported what the administration and the attorneys came up with,” she said. “Moving forward with the project was beneficial to the district. We had to allow the administration to move forward and seek an agreement for the project.”