MOUNT VERNON — A Mount Vernon school board member since January, Paula Barone recused herself from Wednesday’s executive session, which was held to discuss the civil suit filed by John Freshwater against the school board and others.
Although the school board’s attorney, and officials at the Ohio School Boards Association and the Ohio Ethics Commission, said there was no legal conflict of interest, Barone plans to recuse herself from future school board executive sessions and votes involving the Freshwater dismissal action in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Before being elected to the board of education, she was one of the teachers interviewed by the investigating firm hired by the school board to look into allegations against Freshwater. Her son testified at Freshwater’s contract termination hearing.
“Conflicts of interest, both real and perceived,” Barone said, “were important learning points for us as new school board members during a recent OSBA training session. It is incumbent upon us as fiduciary agents of the Mount Vernon City Schools to take this information to heart and to act upon it.”
In a letter sent to board president Dr. Margie Bennett, Barone expressed concerns that her participation in the board’s deliberations might be used by Freshwater’s attorney as a pretext for further litigation against the school system.
Barone said she wants to spare the school board and the community the additional expense, and more delays in resolving the contract issue, that further litigation would demand.
Another newly elected board member, Steve Thompson, also recused himself from Wednesday’s executive session. Thompson declined to comment on his recusal, and referred questions to the board’s attorney, David Millstone.