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School board reverses decision of appeal

November 16, 2012
Morning Journal News

EAST LIVERPOOL - With one member opposed, the city school board reversed its decision not to appeal an October decision by Municipal Court Judge Melissa Byers Emmerling that found the school board partially responsible for refunding the cost of tickets for a canceled rap concert.

The board had voted 3-1 at its Nov. 5 meeting not to appeal Byers Emmerling's ruling that the district and concert promoter Terry Smitherman were both responsible to repay the $170 to city resident Guy Taylor.

At that time, only board Vice President Bob Estell supported the motion to appeal the decision, with member Scott Dieringer absent.

Last night, after entering executive session to discuss pending litigation with an attorney reportedly on speaker phone, the board returned to reverse that decision, voting 4-1 in favor of appealing to the Seventh District Court of Appeals.

Board Member Richard Wolf again was opposed, reiterating his original opposition, saying the board was "throwing good money after bad" by appealing the decision.

The concert was canceled by Superintendent James Herring after Smitherman failed to provide proof of what district officials claimed was mandatory insurance coverage in time for a deadline they said had been imposed.

In her ruling, the judge said the only contract produced by the district wasn't signed until a month after tickets were sold and it did not include a copy of the rules and regulations referred to in the contract language.

The contract states, "A liability strongly recommended and may be required," and the judge said there is no written documentation that the district required Smitherman to purchase liability insurance, in what amounts, or by what date.

Other than Wolf, board members made no comment on why the decision to appeal was changed, and when asked after the meeting for a reason, board President Janice Martin said, "We just need to appeal it. I have no decision on why."

The district has 30 days after the court's ruling to file an appeal, according to court personnel.

When asked after the last meeting how much the district had been charged in legal fees by defense attorneys, Treasurer Todd Puster said a bill had not yet been received.

Wolf had speculated at the previous meeting that legal fees will ultimately cost the district more than what it would cost to repay ticket holders. A total of $6,550 in tickets was sold, and Smitherman would also be liable for paying half the cost of any claims made, as per Byers Emmerling's ruling.

The board also convened in a second executive session at last night's special meeting to discuss personnel matters, specifically discipline, with no action taken afterward.



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