December 18, 2014

Schwab, school board waiting on Supreme Court

2006 lawsuit surfacing once again

By John Fischer|Staff writer
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STANDISH — A late November trial in the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled the Standish-Sterling Community Schools Board of Education violated the state Open Meetings Act in the case of Dr. Ronald Schwab v. Standish-Sterling Community Education (SSCE), a lawsuit filed by Schwab in 2006 after, he says, he was refused access to final interviews for an athletic/community education director's job.

The appeals court reversed the original dismissal by Arenac County’s 23rd Circuit Court, which did not rule whether SSCE broke state laws.

According to SSCE Attorney Ron Henway, of Lansing, SSCE has filed its appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court and is waiting to hear if it will see the case.

“Statistically, there’s only about a 5 percent chance the Supreme Court will hear the case,” Henway said. “So we’re just waiting to hear.”

Henway says the board still believes the process was within state law and will discuss other options if the Supreme Court refuses to hear the case.

According to Schwab, a Standish veterinarian, his motive in filing suit wasn’t for personal gain but to ensure the public has an opportunity, in person, to be part of the decision-making process in school matters, which he says is law binding.

“Courts have repeatedly ruled that schools must hold their business in the public eye,” Schwab said.

He also says the school board waited until the last possible second to post meetings, which prevents members of the general public from being able to adjust their schedule to attend the meetings.

“It just got to be a big game,” Schwab said. “State law requires only 24 or 36 hours to post a meeting but they know about them before that so there’s no reason they can’t post them a week in advance.

“It’s hard to make plans when you find about something a day, a day and a half before.”

Schwab says, to this point in time, he has spent over $20,000 on attorney fees and believes the school has spent just as much if not more.

“At one point, the school asked to negotiate, retribution and all, and I said I would as long as it was held in public with everyone attending,” Schwab said. “They refused that request and this is where we are now.

“They could have settled for 10 percent of what it’s costing them now but they chose not to do that.”

Henway says SSCE would not be able to seek retribution, even if a favorable verdict is returned.

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