A Logan County judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by an ex-superintendent who’s in prison for a child sex crime.
Patrick O’Donnell is serving 50 months in jail. He sued Indian Lake Schools arguing the Indian Lake Board of Education improperly fired him before he was convicted of the crime.
However, Logan County Common Pleas Judge William Goslee ruled last week that Indian Local Schools was justified when it terminated O’Donnell after he was accused and charged with touching a young teenage girl.
O’Donnell’s attorney, Dennis Pregram, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment. The girl O’Donnell assaulted was not a student at the school and was known to him.
O’Donnell entered an Alford plea in the criminal case — meaning he didn’t admit guilt but agreed to the punishment — and was convicted and sentenced to about five years in prison in March.
The district argued in court filings O’Donnell being charged with the crime was enough cause to fire him and also said that even if he was found not guilty, too much damage to his reputation had been done and he wouldn’t have been able to lead the school any longer.
Goslee found that the board of education was within their rights when they fired O’Donnell.
“The testimony of several principals, assistant principals and teachers reflect the consensus that O’Donnell had lost the confidence of those that he supervised,” Goslee wrote in his findings. “These are his peers and those who look to him within the district for leadership and who recognize the need for community support.”
Goslee also found that the Indian Lake community had lost confidence in the ex-superintendent.
“He simply could not steer the ship as a captain,” Goslee wrote. “He was not effective and for this there was no cure. The damage was ongoing to the district.”
Pregram in early court filings argued that it didn’t matter that O’Donnell was convicted of the crime for the purposes of the lawsuit. But Goslee disagreed.
“This cannot be ignored as though it did not happen,” Goslee wrote. “It did. It is not, however, dispositive of the decision. The damage to the district would have been irreversible had the board waited to address this administratively while it waited for the criminal case to the point of conviction before acting. The board indicated that the charges of criminal conduct were such that the public outcry and division in the community were so great that the damage to the school system and public confidence demanded his retirement or dismissal.”
The district released a statement through a spokeswoman saying that it was happy with Goslee’s decision.
“The Indian Lake School Board is pleased with the court’s decision to affirm our action in the dismissal of Pat O’Donnell,” the statement said. “We believe that the judgment entry recently filed by Logan County Common Pleas Court Judge William Goslee validates our careful decision in this matter.
“Our focus throughout this process has always been, and will continue to be, on student achievement, safety and well-being.”