Dropped and kept quiet
Alissa Widman Neese
Aug 17, 2013 at 9:51 AM
Administrators at Huron Schools refuse to release emails or documents they’ve exchanged with the district’s insurer, citing attorney-client privilege.
The insurer, Ohio School Plan, is set to drop Huron Schools within two weeks, citing “threats of continued litigation,” “lack of board focus and direction” and “inability to determine potential possible costs.”
The developments come after the board’s 3-2 vote in April to fire superintendent Fred Fox for alleged misdeeds.
The related termination and court proceedings have already cost the district more than $140,000.
Ohio School Plan provides coverage to about 300 schools and has only dropped a school district once in its 11 years of operation, said Joe Seay, president of Hylant Administrative Services, which represents the group.
Want to go?
What: Huron school board meeting (click here for the agenda).
When: 7:30 this evening
Where: Shawnee Elementary School conference room, 712 Cleveland Road E.
Huron Schools planned to receive a written notice with more details after the insurer reviewed the district’s pending lawsuits. The Register emailed a public records request to district treasurer Mike Weis on June 3, requesting all communications to and from Ohio School Plan since May 1, about a week before the group announced its plans to ditch the district.
Citing attorney-client privilege, however, Weis refused to release two letters that the public records request would have fleshed out, detailing Ohio School Plan’s findings.
Weis then referred the Register to district attorney Dane Gaschen.
“I cannot provide you with any legal advice or provide an explanation of the court’s ruling to you,” Gaschen told the Register in an email. “I can only state that the district’s decision is based on the holding of the Ohio Supreme Court in State ex rel. Dawson v. Bloom-Carroll Local School District. For any further explanation you would need to seek the advice of your legal counsel.”
In the referenced lawsuit, a woman’s dispute with the school district involved a request for emails the district exchanged with an insurance company, which were also sent to attorneys in the case. The communications appear to have addressed district matters pertaining to the woman and her family, in a specific claim.
In the case of Huron Schools, the documents would involve the district’s insurance policy as a whole, as school officials have already said.
In Ohio, public records exemptions are typically discretionary. This means Huron school board members could simply choose to release the documents rather than citing an exemption as justification to withhold them.
Throughout the Fred Fox ordeal, and with these latest developments on the district’s insurance policy, community interest has been readily apparent.
Huron Schools has submitted applications to five alternative insurers, Weis said, and at least one company verbally confirmed it can provide insurance at an increased cost. A decision has yet to be made.
The school board is set to allow Weis to select a property and liability insurer by June 30, “using his own best judgment,” according to the agenda for tonight’s meeting. The district’s current insurance through Ohio School Plan costs about $38,000 a year.