CPS Board Of Education Sued For Possible Violations Of Open Meetings Act
The Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education is facing a lawsuit for possible violations of the Open Meetings Act involving text messages between board members during and outside of public meetings.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court by realtor and activist Mark Miller, who's represented by Curt Hartman.
The lawsuit alleges board members were texting each other during a board work session Jan. 16, the same session when it was decided CPS would transition to blended learning starting Feb. 1. The suit alleges this was the equivalent of a private meeting the public wasn't made aware of.
Hartman compared the events laid out in the lawsuit to the 'Gang of Five' controversy in which Cincinnati City Council members were accused of violating the state's open meeting law with a series of text messages.
"Now granted, I don't think it's as extreme and the magnitude may not be as great as the 'Gang of Five,' but now you've got a 'Gang of Seven' on the Cincinnati school board that is clearly engaging in discussions amongst each other on public business of the Cincinnati Public Schools," Hartman said.
Text messages were also made between board members Jan. 19, just one day before a public meeting. The suit alleges when Board President Carolyn Jones became aware that Cincinnati Federation of Teachers members were planning to speak during public comment at a Jan. 20 meeting, she started a group conversation about how to handle comment if teachers were to "hijack" the meeting. Jones then said she would prefer to suspend public comment or limit the number of speakers to five.
The lawsuit states Ohio's Open Meetings Act prohibits any "private prearranged discussion of public business by a majority of the members of a public body regardless of whether the discussion occurs face to face, telephonically, by video conference, or electronically by e-mail, text, tweet, or other form of communication."
"We are in receipt of the lawsuit filed by Mark Miller and it is under review," CPS tells WVXU in a statement.
On Mar. 10, the CPS Board of Education voted 4-3 to resume in-person learning as soon as Mar. 31.
This story has been updated.