Friday, April 10, 2009

Strategy in the John Freshwater Case?

The following article relies upon details from the sworn affidavit of Melanie Dobson dated 2/26/09.

She was in town visiting family on December 29, 2008, when she stopped in at Sips—the local coffee shop in Mount Vernon, Ohio—to work on a book project. It was during that time that she overheard two men discussing the local controversy—the John Freshwater case, Melanie Dobson stated in a sworn affidavit.

Dobson’s father was with her and identified one of the men as Ian Watson, president of the city school board. In August, 2008, the school board voted to start the process of firing Freshwater, a middle school science teacher.

Dobson said the men were talking loudly. “It was my impression all of the people sitting in the dining area could hear the men talking,” Dobson said. “I heard the men speaking about the John Freshwater matter. It was clear to me then and my impression remains the men were talking strategy in relation as to how to win the John Freshwater case.”

The affidavit does not go into details at great length, but it does contain some of the phrases that Dobson remembers the two men using. “The man facing my direction spoke of a strategy to find ‘locals’ to ‘testify’ and ‘draw up support,’” Dobson said. “The men continued to speak about ‘bringing in’ an ‘expert’ and ‘professional’ to ‘testify’ about ‘theology’, ‘evolution’ and the ‘constitution.’”

Dobson said that she “was stunned the men were talking so loudly in a public place about the matter.”

Her father, Jim Beroth, was only at Sips long enough to take a photo of her while she worked on her book project. While he was there, Dobson said she asked him who the two men were and he identified one of the men as Watson. “The man my father identified as Ian Watson was the taller man who was quieter than the other man,” Dobson said. “My dad stated he did not know the man sitting with Ian Watson.”

Dobson said that the way the men were talking indicated that “they were more than concerned citizens as they used terms indicating to me the matter was more personalized such as ‘We need to do this..’”

Dobson, a resident of Oregon, has not appeared to testify at the Freshwater hearing, but the affidavit was supplied to the court and the attorney for the school board.

When R. Kelly Hamilton, attorney for Freshwater, submitted the affidavit to the court, the referee postponed making a decision on Dobson’s request that she not have to appear in person. Dobson stated in her affidavit that, “It would be a hardship upon me and my family if I had to travel to Ohio at this time. If the other attorneys wish to speak with me they can contact me.”

School board president Ian Watson did not respond to a request for comment.

Following the decision by the school board to start the firing proceedings against Freshwater, the attorney for the board, David Millstone, spoke to Mount Vernon News reporter Pamela Schehl about the process of making a final decision on the matter (“MV school board to fire Freshwater” August 26, 2008):

“If a referee is requested, Millstone said, the referee holds a hearing and makes a recommendation to the board and the board then acts on the recommendation: The board makes a decision (for or against termination) based on the evidence before it.”


Anonymous said...

REMINDER - Calling it a Tesla coil is completely disingenuous. Everyone who refers to the 115 Volt BD-10A High Frequency Generator, is simply lying to make it sound less dangerous than it is. I can't wait until they fire this clown and move on. Then they should sue all his supporters to recoup the costs. Now you know what it is, why keep calling it a tesla coil?

Anonymous said...

I would assume a school board president, in the middle of this mess, would have to discuss it with people. What are you trying to say? Why does this matter???

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...


"Tesla coil" is the term being used in the hearing itself.

The instruction manual for the device says “Both models are a variation of the tesla coil”

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...


Why did you post a comment about the “Tesla coil” in response to an article that did not even use that name?

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

Anonymous said: “I would assume a school board president, in the middle of this mess, would have to discuss it with people. What are you trying to say? Why does this matter???”

There are several potential problems in what Dobson claims she overheard:

The information could imply that the school board member already had his mind made up about the case and was not planning on considering the new information that has come to light during the hearing.

If he indeed he was talking “strategy,” then should that information have been discussed in either a public meeting or in an execute session of the school board? (Remember that there are very strict laws the school board members have to abide by. They cannot have conversations with other school board members outside of a meeting on matters that they will be voting on. There is some leeway for discussing things with non-school board members though. The other man Dobson was referring to most likely was not a school board member.)

Anonymous said...

Isn't there also a legal case regarding all this? Maybe they were discussing that case and not the termination hearing.

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

Anonymous said: “Isn't there also a legal case regarding all this? Maybe they were discussing that case and not the termination hearing.”

(There is a federal case filed against the school board, et al, by the Dennis family.)

That’s an interesting possibility—certainly one that the school board’s attorney should question Dobson about.

Anonymous said...

Why the school boards attorney?
Just curious, do you have a law degree?

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