LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A federal judge has ordered the School Board of Lakota Schools to reinstate the public comment period at its next meeting as tensions continue to boil over a controversy involving Superintendent Matt Miller.

The order is part of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by resident Diane Hughes against the school board and Lynda O’Conner in her official capacity as school board president.

Hughes accuses the board of unconstitutionally restricting free speech by preventing the public at the September 12 board meeting from criticizing the board in the context of Miller.

The board justified its decision based on a section of its bylaws: “To protect the rights of employees, the board does not hear complaints about specific employees in open session.”

Hughes requested a temporary restraining order to restore public comment ahead of Monday’s board meeting, but later shelved that motion as she and the school board appeared to reach an agreement.

Then came Monday’s meeting, where Frost Brown Todd’s attorney, Alex Ewing, advised the board to shut down public comment, according to our media partners at the Enquirer.

The board followed suit by a 4-to-1 vote, limiting public comment entirely. Ewing was the only speaker allowed.

Board member Darbi Boddy, who is no stranger to controversy, was the only “no” to vote. “Muzzling our community is a bad idea,” she said. “It won’t go well for you.”

Hughes’ attorney, Curt Hartman, told FOX19 NOW after the meeting, “We were very disappointed with the tactics taken by the school board in the 11th hour. We solved the problem very quickly, very friendly. They made a total of 180. I think that shows bad faith on their part.

Now Hughes and the school board appear to have reached another agreement.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black issued the scoring order representing that deal on Wednesday. The board agreed not to enforce the section of its bylaws limiting public comment on individual employees. He also agreed to provide a 30-minute public comment period at the next meeting on November 7.

Hughes specifically “will be provided [three] minutes of uninterrupted talking time.

The school board, however, reserves the right to withdraw public comments at any subsequent meeting “or otherwise revise its public participation policy.”

The deal, per Black’s order, should bring the matter to a resolution. Whether the issue is actually resolved seems to hinge on whether the board will keep its promise to let Hughes and other members of the public speak at board meetings in the future.

Superintendent under investigation

The lawsuit was one of three pending against Lakota involving public records or public speaking at board meetings related to the superintendent.

Hartman, acting on behalf of Hughes, filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court last month against the Lakota School Board and Treasurer Adam Zink.

He accuses the school board of violating Ohio public records law by withholding the initial complaint about Miller that resident Vanessa Wells filed with the district on Aug. 22.

Wells, who ran for the school board last year and lost, then filed the complaint with the Butler County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 8.

Lakota provided FOX19 NOW with a copy of Wells’ complaint when we requested a copy in August.

The complaint contains second-hand claims against Miller that she heard from his ex-wife, according to sheriff’s records.

The sheriff’s office closed its investigation last month, determining there was no probable cause Miller, 51, committed a crime. No charges have been filed.

O’Connor announced at the September 12 council meeting that the district would investigate Miller further. The board voted to hire a New York-based law firm that charges the district $280 to $360 an hour, according to school records.

Most board members continue to back Miller, who was chosen as the top Lakota trustee of 2017 after a nationwide search. He is paid $192,000 a year to lead the district of over 17,300 students and also has a car allowance.

Boddy has repeatedly called for Miller to be furloughed and for the district to fire him, citing issues related to his personal life that detectives confirmed during their investigation.

Since he has not been criminally charged, FOX19 NOW is not repeating the allegations.

Miller has publicly stated that the allegations against him were false and that he was the target of defamation.

More than 550 people have signed an online petition to put Miller on administrative leave as of Tuesday morning

He announced at a special school board meeting Sept. 28 that he had fully cooperated with the sheriff’s office investigation.

The sheriff’s records show he spoke at length to investigators without his attorney present, as did his ex-wife.

Miller said he was also cooperating with the district-funded investigation.

“I will continue to dedicate my career, my life, to our children and students, our staff, our administrators and our community and I will not let bullies, rumors and false accusations deter me from this work,” said Miller during the meeting. last month.

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