COLUMBUS — Legal maneuvering in matters concerning suspended Mount Vernon Middle School science teacher John Freshwater continue. An oral hearing has been scheduled for July 29, to allow Freshwater’s attorney R. Kelly Hamilton to appeal a ruling on payment and document disclosure.
Freshwater is being sued in federal court by the Doe family, which contends that Freshwater unconstitutionally taught religion in the classroom.
On June 1, U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost ordered Freshwater and Hamilton to turn over certain documents, billing records and materials related to the Does’ case. Sanctions were subsequently imposed by the judge against Freshwater and his attorney because Freshwater and Hamilton failed to produce the specific documents and materials requested.
Hamilton countered by filing a motion asking the court to reconsider its order to produce the material and to pay attorney fees and costs for the Doe family related to attempts to obtain the material.
On July 2, the attorney for the Doe family, Doug Mansfield filed a counter motion to Hamilton’s request that the judge reconsider the sanctions against himself and Freshwater.
On Wednesday, Freshwater and Hamilton replied to Mansfield’s counter and requested an oral hearing on the matter. According to court documents, Freshwater “objects to the Request for Production of Documents to the extent they seek disclosure of information protected under the attorney-client privilege, the work-product doctrine, or any other applicable privilege or immunity.” He uses the same argument with regard to alleged religious material from the classroom, certain requested e-mail documents and audiotapes he made of conversations related to his contract termination hearing.
Freshwater’s response included an affidavit outlining his thoughts on Mansfield’s opposition to the motion to reconsider sanctions. He explained the billing agreements between himself, Hamilton, and his former counsel Roger Weaver, and said the difference in two hourly rates are for different services which include legal representation and investigative work. Freshwater also explained his use of the word “pitch” with regard to documents, discussed materials given to him by Mount Vernon City Schools Superintendent Steve Short and included portions of the transcript from the administrative hearing concerning his contract termination.
Regarding Mansfield’s allegation Freshwater did not pay court-ordered attorney fees, Freshwater stated, “If I had the money to give Mr. Mansfield I would have. All I have is my farm so I gave him a piece of that with the lien and Kelly [Hamilton] owns part of my farm already so he gave what he had, I can’t pay what I don’t have and Kelly can’t pay because I owe him so much money.”
Hamilton asserted, “This case and the motion for reconsideration are about truth.” He said he and Freshwater have indeed complied with the court’s discovery orders, and went on to explain the fee arrangements with respect to investigative and legal representation aspects of the bills for the period of April and May of 2008.
Hamilton also wrote that the plaintiffs failed to comply with his request for an inventory of items from Freshwater’s classroom. A list was submitted in evidence at the June 22 session of the contract termination hearing.
Regarding the audiotapes that were requested, Hamilton stated, “Witnesses in one case are not necessarily relevant to the claims made in another case.” He particularly mentioned former school board member Steve Hughes.
Like Freshwater, Hamilton said that although he disputes the reasonableness of Mansfield’s fees he tried to comply with the order to pay a portion of those fees. He said he and Freshwater “complied as best they could with the resources they have available.”
“Truth is everything,” Hamilton concluded. “Truth shall set one free and both John Freshwater and the undersigned will follow truth wherever it may lead. Truth can be complicated and vulnerable to misinterpretation. John Freshwater and the undersigned have been castigated unfairly and unjustly despite simply telling the truth and it is requested by both, that the truth be investigated and determined with as much zeal as has been invested in speculation. Accordingly, reconsideration of this Court’s Opinion and Order are requested.”