MOUNT VERNON — The contract termination hearing of suspended Mount Vernon Middle School teacher John Freshwater, scheduled to resume Thursday, is again on hold.
Hearing referee R. Lee Shepherd confirmed Tuesday that the hearing will not resume until the Ohio Supreme Court rules on Freshwater’s Writ of Mandamus application. It is not known how long that will take.
A writ of mandamus is an attempt by an individual to have a public official do his official duty. In this case it specifically refers to Mount Vernon school board president Ian Watson, board member Jody Goetzman and treasurer Barbara Donohue.
The complaint asserts that the school board and the individuals mentioned “refuse to proceed with legal process whereby (they) thwart and deny (Freshwater) due process of law” by not testifying at Freshwater’s contract termination hearing.
Hamilton previously attempted to compel the board members to testify by filing an application with the Knox County Court of Common Pleas. On July 7, Knox County Common Pleas Judge Otho Eyster ruled he had no authority, in this case, to make them present testimony in the hearing, as the board effectively quashed the subpoenas. The Ohio Supreme Court filing alleges the board has no power to quash a subpoena and states it is within a board member’s official duties to appear for testimony.
The mandamus complaint was filed with the Ohio Supreme Court Aug. 4 and answered by the school board and individuals named on Aug. 31. At that time, the board’s attorney also filed a motion for judgment on pleadings (basically asking the court to dismiss the complaint), and on Sept. 10 Freshwater’s attorney filed a memo opposing the motion.
“We’re very disappointed [about the delay],” said David Millstone, attorney for the school board. “That’s probably an understatement. The district is clearly disappointed and would like to see this resolved, to get it behind us so we can get on with the education of children without any kind of distractions.”
“John very much wants to resume and conclude the hearing as his career, and part of his life, have been put on hold,” Freshwater attorney Kelly Hamilton said. “If the two school board members had testified we would have finished the hearing by now. There will still be a quorum if the two BOE members testify. The two BOE members were implicated by the parents of the student. I am following the information to its natural conclusion and not leaving any investigative holes. I am just presenting the truth.”