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Other board members were wrong to censure Wolf

July 31, 2011
Morning Journal News

It goes without saying that Richard Wolf has been surrounded by controversy most of the time since his return as a member of the East Liverpool Board of Education.

We agree with him, however, that "vindictive pettiness" is behind the board's recent action to censure and reprimand him.

Some of the grievances the board registered seemed nothing more than attempts to punish Wolf for disagreeing with them. The board shouldn't try to brand him as a "bad boy" for simply having a different opinion and expressing it.

Wolf was censured for walking out of an executive session and for referring to the superintendent in a "highly derogatory fashion."

Wolf admits to both allegations but contends the executive session that he refused to attend was both a violation of the Ohio sunshine law and board policy. The Ohio Revised Code section pertaining to open meetings clearly states, "no public body shall hold an executive session for the discipline of an elected official for conduct related to the performance of the elected official's official duties or for the elected official's removal from office." We wish more public officials would take the sunshine law to heart and refuse to be a part of such blatant violations.

Board policy, according to Wolf, allows any party to a board hearing to have the hearing in public session, and states the board "will not hold an executive session for the discipline of one of its board members."

As far as referring to Superintendent Ken Halbert in a "highly derogatory fashion," Wolf says the remark was made in a private conversation. What he said probably wasn't nice, but the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects all speech, nice or not.

Other board allegations concerned where Wolf was seated during this spring's graduation ceremony and remarks he made about the contractor working on the football field. Both accusations seem too petty for us to go into here and bear out Wolf's "vindictive pettiness" claim.

Wolf has always been a contentious board member and we can understand the frustration experienced by fellow board members and administrators in dealing with him. Last year we chastised him for filing a lawsuit against the school board when members disagreed with him over the demolition of East Elementary School, and agreed when the judge ordered him to pay $7,500 for the boards legal fees in fighting the frivolous lawsuit.

But now, the other board members are wrong and must learn that they are governed by laws which limit their actions. Punishing Wolf, or any elected official, as you would a school boy, is not the adult way of dealing with this.

Board of Education members need to grow up and stop acting like the schoolchildren they were elected to oversee.



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