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Reynoldsburg City School District Board of Education v. Licking Heights Local School District

September 30, 2011

REYNOLDSBURG CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LICKING HEIGHTS LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. (C.P.C. No. 10CVH10-15429)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Brown, J.

Cite as Reynoldsburg City School Dist. Bd. of Edn. v. Licking Hts. Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. ,

(REGULAR CALENDAR)

DECISION

{¶1} Reynoldsburg City School District Board of Education ("Reynoldsburg"), plaintiff-appellant, appeals from a judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, in which the court denied its motion to vacate arbitration award.

{¶2} Reynoldsburg and Licking Heights Local School District Board of Education ("Licking Heights"), defendant-appellee, entered into a June 18, 1991 territorial agreement ("agreement"), pursuant to which the parties agreed to transfer certain territories between their districts and share tax proceeds from these territories. Pursuant to the agreement, the parties also agreed to the following binding dispute resolution process: 9.4. Issues which the Boards of Education or their designated representatives are unable to resolve between themselves concerning administration of the tax revenue sharing requirements of this Agreement shall be referred at the request of either Board of Education for determination by a school finance expert agreed upon by the Boards of Education. The decision of such expert shall be in writing and shall be final and binding. The cost of such expert's services shall be divided equally between the Boards of Education. If the Boards of Education are unable to agree upon a school finance expert, the selection shall be made by the Sate Superintendent of Public Instruction or his successor.

{¶3} On August 13, 2008, Licking Heights requested that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction ("state superintendent") appoint a hearing officer, pursuant to paragraph 9.4 of the agreement, to resolve a dispute between the parties regarding the split of certain tax proceeds. On October 10, 2008, with the agreement of both parties, the state superintendent appointed Robert Barrow as the hearing officer. After it became apparent that the parties disagreed over the method of calculating the "charge-off" portion of the calculation, on March 30, 2009, the hearing officer asked whether the parties desired to participate in a meeting between their respective chief financial officers or have charge-off "simulations" performed by the Ohio Department of Education ("ODE"). Although the parties initially agreed to meet with each other to discuss the disagreement, Licking Heights subsequently requested the charge-off simulations be performed by ODE. On April 22, 2009, the hearing officer asked Reynoldsburg to agree to allow ODE to perform the simulations. Reynoldsburg objected to the use of ODE, claiming the agreement did not provide for ODE's participation in the charge-off calculation.

{¶4} On September 29, 2009, the hearing officer issued an order requesting ODE to perform the charge-off simulations, and indicating the parties would have the opportunity to submit their agreement or disagreement with ODE's simulations. On December 3, 2009, ODE submitted its simulations to the hearing officer and parties. ODE modified its simulations on December 18, 2009, and February 9, 2010. Licking Heights submitted questions to the hearing officer regarding ODE's simulations, and ODE presented responses to the hearing officer and the parties.

{¶5} On April 14, 2010, based upon ODE's simulations and other calculations performed by the hearing officer, Licking Heights requested that the hearing officer order Reynoldsburg to pay Licking Heights $1,108,439, and submitted a proposed order to that effect. On June 1, 2010, Licking Heights again requested that the hearing officer order Reynoldsburg to pay Licking Heights $1,108,439. On June 13, 2010, Reynoldsburg responded to Licking Heights' request, pointing out its continuing objection to the use of ODE to perform the charge-off calculation and pointing out several errors made by ODE and Licking Heights in performing the calculations.

{¶6} In late June or early July 2010, the superintendent of Licking Heights, Thomas Tucker, requested a lunch meeting with the superintendent of Reynoldsburg, Stephen Dackin, and the two met on July 20, 2010. During the meeting, Tucker indicated that Reynoldsburg owed Licking Heights $1.1 million and asked Dackin if he had received the "letter" from the hearing officer "about the money," to which Dackin replied he had not. Tucker promised to send Dackin a copy of the letter upon returning to his office.

{¶7} On July 21, 2010, the hearing officer issued an order concluding Reynoldsburg owed Licking Heights $1,108,439.

{¶8} On July 23, 2010, Dackin received an e-mail from Tucker's secretary attaching a copy of the "letter" from the hearing officer that Tucker had referenced at the July 20, 2010 lunch meeting. The attached "letter" was the hearing officer's July 21, 2010 order.

{¶9} On July 30, 2010, Reynoldsburg requested that the hearing officer explain various parts of his decision and requested that the hearing officer disclose any ex parte communications he may have had with Licking Heights. The hearing officer did not respond to the requests.

{ΒΆ10} On October 21, 2010, Reynoldsburg filed a motion to vacate arbitration award in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. On January 27, 2011, the trial court issued judgment, in which it denied Reynoldsburg's motion to vacate arbitration award. Reynoldsburg appeals the ...


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