Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State ex rel. Jones v. Board of Education of Dayton Public Schools

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

February 23, 2018

STATE OF OHIO ex rel. CRAIG A. JONES, et al. Plaintiffs-Appellants
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE DAYTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS Defendant-Appellee

         Civil Appeal from Common Pleas Court Trial Court Case No. 2016-CV-4132

          DENNIS L. PERGRAM, Attorney for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

          BRIAN L. WILDERMUTH, LAUREN K. EPPERLEY Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee.

          OPINION

          WELBAUM, P.J.

         {¶ 1} This case is before us on the appeal of Plaintiff-Appellant, Craig Jones, from a judgment rendered in favor of Defendant-Appellee, Board of Education of the Dayton Public Schools ("Board").[1] Jones contends that the trial court erred in finding that the Board complied with R.C. 3313.16, R.C. 121.22, and Board Policy BDDA when it refused to renew his contract. According to Jones, the nonrenewal of his contract exceeded the scope of the purpose set forth in the Board's special meeting notice, and was invalid.

         {¶ 2} In addition, Jones contends that the trial court erred in failing to grant summary judgment in his favor on the issue of the Board's violation of R.C. 121.22(G), and in failing to require the Board to strictly comply with R.C. 3313.16.

         {¶ 3} We conclude that the Board's special meeting notice failed to comply with R.C. 121.22(F), because the Board failed to properly state the purpose of the open session of the meeting. The Board's resolution not to renew Jones' contract, therefore, was invalid, and the trial court erred in rendering summary judgment in the Board's favor.

         {¶ 4} Although the Board also failed to comply with certain requirements of R.C. 3313.16 when it sent out the notice for the special meeting, the trial court did not err in finding a lack of prejudice, because Jones had actual notice of the meeting. In addition, the Board's motion to go into executive session facially complied with R.C. 121.22(G)(1). Whether the Board improperly disguised its intentions in calling the meeting and in moving into executive session do not need to be considered, due to the invalidity of the resolution adopted at the special meeting. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court will be reversed, and this cause will be remanded for further proceedings.

         I. Facts and Course of Proceedings

         {¶ 5} The facts in the case before us were largely stipulated and are not disputed. On May 7, 2013, Craig Jones and the Board entered into an employment contract, pursuant to which the Board employed Jones as Treasurer for the Dayton City School District ("DCSD") for a period of three years. The contract began on August 1, 2013, and was to last until July 31, 2016, unless terminated earlier by the parties' mutual agreement, by Jones' retirement, disability, or death, by a majority vote of the Board, or by Jones' failure to maintain a valid license as statutorily required.

         {¶ 6} Under the contract, Jones acted as financial advisor to the Board and the Board's administration on matters pertaining to DCSD, and was to advise the Board on any actions taken on the Board's behalf. Ex. A to the complaint, p. 2.[2]

         {¶ 7} Concerning employment of treasurers, R.C. 3313.22(A) provides that:

At the expiration of a treasurer's current term of employment, the treasurer is deemed re-employed for a term of one year at the same salary plus any increments that the board may authorize, unless the board, on or before the first day of March of the year in which the contract of employment expires, either re-employs the treasurer for a succeeding term as provided in division (C) of this section or gives to the treasurer written notice of its intention not to re-employ the treasurer.

         {¶ 8} The Board did not terminate Jones' employment; instead, the Board held a special meeting on February 23, 2016, and voted not to renew his contract. At the same meeting, the Board also voted not to renew the contract of the DCSD Superintendent. The Board notified Jones in writing of the non-renewal on February 25, 2016.

         {¶ 9} On September 9, 2016, Jones filed a complaint seeking both a declaratory judgment and a writ of mandamus against the Board. In the first claim for relief, Jones asked for a declaration that he was entitled to be re-employed by the Board under a one-year contract for 2016-2017, due to the Board's failure to comply with statutory requirements and the Board's own policies pertaining to scheduling special meetings. The second claim for relief alleged that the Board's special meeting notice failed to comply with R.C. 121.22, and that actions taken at the February 23, 2016 Board meeting were invalid. Finally, the third claim for relief asserted that Jones was a public official and that the Board's executive session on February 23, 2016, was unlawful because the Board's special meeting notice stated that the purpose of the executive session was to consider "employment of public employees, " rather than to consider the employment of a public official.

         {¶ 10} After the Board filed its answer, the trial court set a schedule for filing stipulations, briefs, and reply briefs. For the most part, the parties were able to agree on the facts, and filed stipulations on January 30, 2017. The briefing concluded on February 13, 2017. Subsequently, on June 27, 2017, the trial court rendered summary judgment in the Board's favor.

         {¶ 11} The court rejected Jones' arguments about defects in the Board's procedure for calling a special meeting under R.C. 3313.16, because Jones had "actual knowledge" of the special meeting. In addition, the court concluded that the Board's notice of the special meeting did not violate R.C. 121.22(F). And finally, the court held that even if the court "humored" Jones by referring to him as a "public official, " the definition of public official included employees; as a result, Jones' "argument asserted a distinction without a difference." Doc. # 23, p. 8.

         {¶ 12} Jones now appeals from the court's decision rendering summary judgment in the Board's favor and overruling Jones' motion for summary judgment.

         II. The Special Meeting Notice

         {¶ 13} Jones' First Assignment of Error states that:

The Trial Court Committed Prejudicial Error by Finding That the Board Complied With Ohio Rev. Code § 3313.16, Ohio Rev. Code § 121.22, and Board Policy BDDA[, ] and Erred by Not Granting Summary Judgment as to Liability for Mr. Jones Because the Board's Nonrenewal of Mr. Jones's Contract Exceeded the Scope of the "Purpose" Set Forth in the Special Meeting Notice (Trial Court's Order).

         {¶ 14} Under this assignment of error, Jones contends that the Board failed to comply with statutory requirements under R.C. 3313.16 and R.C. 121.22(F), and with its own Board policy concerning special meetings. Jones notes that the special meeting notice did not indicate that the Board would be voting on Jones' contract; instead, the notice misinformed the public that the Board may act on recommendations of the superintendent and/or treasurer when, in fact, no recommendations were going to be made and the Board knew that. Additionally, Jones argues that the Board disguised the purpose of the special meeting by omitting any mention of possible non-renewal, and then retroactively revised the agenda the following day (February 24, 2016) to reflect the nonrenewal of the contracts of Jones and the superintendent.

         {¶ 15} According to Jones, the trial court erred by failing to recognize the purpose of a special meeting notice, and further erred by concluding that such purpose was satisfied by a notice indicating that the Board would go into executive session to consider the employment of public employees.

         {¶ 16} We noted in the statement of facts that R.C. 3313.22(A) states that "[a]t the expiration of a treasurer's current term of employment, the treasurer is deemed reemployed for a term of one year at the same salary plus any increments that the board may authorize, unless the board, on or before the first day of March of the year in which the contract of employment expires, either re-employs the treasurer for a succeeding term as provided in division (C) of this section or gives to the treasurer written notice of its intention not to re-employ the treasurer." R.C. 3313.22(D) further states that:

Each board shall adopt procedures for the evaluation of its treasurer and shall evaluate its treasurer in accordance with those procedures. The board shall consider an evaluation based upon those procedures in deciding whether to renew the treasurer's contract. The establishment of an evaluation procedure shall not create an expectancy of continued employment. Nothing in this division shall prevent a board from making the final determination regarding the renewal or nonrenewal of a treasurer's contract.

         {¶ 17} If a treasurer's contract is terminated, R.C. 3313.22(E) indicates that termination shall be in accordance with R.C. 3319.16, which pertains to termination for cause of teaching and non-teaching employees. Of course, here, Jones was not terminated; instead, his contract was not renewed.

         {¶ 18} "[T]he appropriate procedural vehicle for a school administrator to seek reemployment, damages, and back pay for the nonrenewal of his or her employment contract is a petition for a writ of mandamus." (Citations omitted.) State ex rel. Jones v. Sandusky City Schools, 6th Dist. Erie No. E-05-041, 2006-Ohio-188, ¶ 7. "In order for a writ of mandamus to issue, a relator must demonstrate that (1) he or she has a clear legal right to the relief prayed for; (2) respondent is under a corresponding legal duty to perform the requested act; and (3) relator has no plain and adequate legal remedy." (Citations omitted.) State ex rel. Cassels v. Dayton City School Dist. Bd. of Edn., 69 Ohio St.3d 217, 218-219, 631 N.E.2d 150 (1994).

         {¶ 19} As was noted, this case was decided on cross motions for summary judgment. "A trial court may grant a moving party summary judgment pursuant to Civ. R. 56 if there are no genuine issues of material fact remaining to be litigated, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and reasonable minds can come to only one conclusion, and that conclusion is adverse to the nonmoving party, who is entitled to have the evidence construed most strongly in his favor." Smith v. Five Rivers MetroParks, 134 Ohio App.3d 754, 760, 732 N.E.2d 422 (2d Dist.1999), citing Harless v. Willis Day Warehousing Co., 54 Ohio St.2d 64, 375 N.E.2d 46 (1978). "We review decisions granting summary judgment de novo, which means that we apply the same standards as the trial court." (Citations omitted.) GNFH, Inc. v. W. Am. Ins. Co., 172 Ohio App.3d 127, 2007-Ohio-2722, 873 N.E.2d 345, ¶ 16 (2d Dist.).

         {¶ 20} In the statement of facts, we noted that the Board could have terminated Jones' contract based on the provisions in the contract, or it could have chosen nonrenewal under R.C. 3313.22(A), by giving written notice to Jones prior to March 1, 2016. Failure to provide written notice would have resulted in automatic renewal for another year. The Board chose the latter course, and called a special meeting at which it adopted a nonrenewal resolution. The Board then notified Jones of the nonrenewal.

         {¶ 21} Concerning special meetings, R.C. 3313.16 provides that:

A special meeting of a board of education may be called by the president or treasurer thereof or by any two members, by serving a written notice of the time and place of such meeting upon each member of the board at least two days prior to the date of such meeting. Such notice must be signed by the official or members calling the meeting. For the purpose of this section, service by mail is good service.

         {¶ 22} DCSD has adopted its own policies regarding special meetings and notification requirements. Board policy BDDA is entitled "Notification of Meetings, " and provides that:

Due notice of all meetings of the Board and Board-appointed committees is given to the press and the public who have requested notification and to all Board members. Any person may learn the time and place of regularly scheduled meetings and the time and place and purpose of special meetings by calling the District's administrative offices or accessing the District's web site or television station.
Special Meetings: A special meeting may be called by the President, the Treasurer, or any two members of the Board by serving written notice of the time and place of the meeting upon each Board member at least two days before the date of the meeting. The notice must be signed by the officer or members calling the meeting. Notice by mail is authorized. Notice of the time, place and purpose must also be given at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting to all news media and individuals who have requested such notice.

Ex. B attached to the Complaint, p. 1; Doc. #16, Stipulations at No. 2.

         {¶ 23} In the case before us, it is clear that the Board failed to comply with statutory requirements and with its own policy. Notice of a special meeting to be held on February 23, 2016, was emailed to various individuals on February 11, 2016, by Cherisse Kidd, who was not the Board president or a Board member, nor was she the DCSD treasurer. Instead, Kidd handled administrative duties for the Board. The email from Kidd stated that "I hereby call for a special meeting of the Board of Education of the City of Dayton School District * * * to be held on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 * * * ." (Emphasis added.) Doc. #16, Stipulations at No. 3, and Ex. C-1 attached to the Stipulations. Thus, the undisputed evidence indicates that the individual calling the meeting was Kidd, who was not a proper party under either R.C. 3313.16 or the Board's own policy.

         {¶ 24} Kidd's affidavit indicated that her routine practice was to call Board members about special meetings, and that she followed her routine practice on February 23, 2016, although she actually had no particular recollection of how she was asked to do this. Doc. #18, Kidd Affidavit, ¶ 3-4 and 9. Kidd also stated that the Board president's routine practice was to notify her of the time, place, and purpose of Board meetings so that she could send a special Board meeting notice. Id. at ¶ 7. However, regardless of "routine" practices, the fact is that the email did not comply with either R.C. 3313.16 or Board policy.

         {¶ 25} The email was also not sent to two Board members, John McManus and Ronald Lee. McManus did attend the February 23, 2016 special meeting, so he apparently received some type of notice (although that is not addressed in the record). Lee did not attend; however, Lee stated in an affidavit that he was aware of the meeting and had a conflicting personal appointment. Doc. #18, Lee Affidavit, ¶ 6-7. Again, these failures indicate that the special meeting notice did not comply with R.C. 3313.16 or the Board's own policy.

         {¶ 26} Kidd's email was sent on February 11, 2016, and included an attached document dated February 19, 2016. The document was labeled "F.Y.I." and "Special Meeting." Doc. #16, Stipulations at No. 3, and Ex. C-2 attached to the Stipulations. The letterhead of this document stated "Dayton Board of Education, " and included the names of the President, Vice-President, and all Board Members. In the trial court, the Board argued that this constituted compliance with the statute and policy. Clearly, it did not. Both the statute and Board policy require that the notice be signed by the officer or members calling the meeting. The fact that the Board president's name is on a letterhead does not constitute a "signature." Several other names are on the letterhead, including, as Jones points out, the Board's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.