East Liverpool board members square off over letter to architect

EAST LIVERPOOL – A letter signed by the school board president directing the architect to stop any additional design work on the Patterson Field stadium project drew the ire of board member Richard Wolf at Monday’s meeting.

The July 11 letter on district letterhead to Scott Shepherd of A&I Studios was signed by President Janice Martin and stated, “The Board of Education directs you to refrain from undertaking any additional design work on the stadium renovation portion of your contract regarding the renovation/restoration of Patterson Field Stadium.”

During the portion of the meeting set aside for board member comments, Wolf asked Martin to cite for him where she had received authority to pen the letter, saying no board action had been taken approving it.

Martin said the wording was prepared by the district’s legal counsel following an executive session at a previous board meeting and after she and Sam Soward, the district’s project manager, met with legal counsel.

“No action was ever taken by this board. A motion should have been made. You do not have the authority,” Wolf said, adding that having advice from legal counsel does not allow for circumventing the law.

Open meeting laws require that all action taken by a public body be taken in open session. No action may be taken in an executive session.

Board member Scott Dieringer said he heard Wolf say only the board president has the authority to sign such a letter, with Wolf agreeing, emphasizing, “But only with action of the board; the board never acted on this.”

“Let’s just pull everything out of executive session and make public everything that shouldn’t be,” Dieringer shot back.

Although not responding specifically about the letter, Martin offered several remarks during her turn to comment, including urging people to run for two open board seats in November, one of which would be Wolf’s.

Martin also said she had sat back and said little when hearing “a board member trash the Red Cross” in the past while discussing using Westgate as an emergency shelter and hearing a board member say, “You can take people out of the slums but you can’t take the slums out of people,” and also heard a member make numerous attacks on the city of East Liverpool and references to an administrator “who is too old and needs to retire.”

Martin did not identify the board member to whom she was referring but said, “If we’re comparing ages of individuals, (the administrator to whom she referred earlier) could come back for another 10 to 15 years of service to this district.”