Friday, June 12, 2009

School Board “quashed” Subpoenas in the John Freshwater Hearing

Three members of the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education have refused to comply with subpoenas to testify and turn over documents in the John Freshwater hearing, according to a document obtained from the Court of Common Pleas Knox County, Ohio.

Those named in the document—“Application to compel attendance of witnesses in the employment hearing of John Freshwater”—are Ian Watson, Jody Goetzman and Margie Bennett. In addition to those already subpoenaed, the application requests that board member Sharon Fair be required to testify and turn over documents.

The application—dated June 2, 2009—was submitted to the court by R. Kelly Hamilton, attorney for Freshwater. It states that the subpoena for documents from Watson was as early as February 27, 2009. The three board members—Watson, Goetzman and Bennett—were submitted with subpoenas, to testify, in March and April of 2009, according to the application.

Freshwater, according to the application, was told in May that the board members would not be appearing to testify:

“In an email dated May 6, 2009, legal counsel for employer advised Petitioner John Freshwater the school board had ‘quashed those subpoenas and neither individual will be appearing.’ On May 7, 2009, counsel for Petitioner and counsel for the school board discussed the statutory process for compelling the presence of witnesses desired by Petitioner with acknowledgment by referee who was appointed by the the (sic) superintendent of public instruction. Counsel for the parties, with acknowledgment by the referee, agreed Petitioner John Freshwater would make this Application pursuant to R.C. 3319.16 seeking to compel the production of documents and appearance of witnesses.”

The application cites portions of the Ohio Revised Code 3319.16:

“Both parties may be present at such hearing, be represented by counsel, require witnesses to be under oath, cross-examine witnesses, take a record of the proceedings, and require the presence of witnesses in their behalf upon subpoena to be issued by the treasurer of the board.

“In case of the failure of any person to comply with a subpoena, a judge of the court of common pleas of the county in which the person resides, upon application of any interested party, shall compel attendance of the person by attachment proceedings as for contempt.”

At this time, it is not known why the school board members mentioned above are refusing to comply with the subpoenas. (Request for comment from them has been made—if and when they reply, this article will be updated with their response.)

The application submitted to the court by Hamilton makes no mention of the school board members submitting a request to have their subpoenas quashed by the court. Presumably, if the school board had submitted a quash request to the court, Hamilton’s document would have been identified as a response instead of “Application to compel attendance of witnesses in the employment hearing of John Freshwater.”

Did the school board members try to “quash” the subpoenas themselves instead of requesting a judge to do it?

UPDATE 6/18/09:

For the school board’s side of the story, see the article “School Board Gives Reason for Not Complying With Subpoenas.”

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