The former Logan County superintendent fired after he was charged with sexually assaulting a girl has sued the district to get his job back.
Also, the criminal cases against the superintendent and his wife, the superintendent at Midwest Regional Educational Center, will go to trial together in February.
Patrick O’Donnell, the former superintendent at Indian Lake Schools, says in a lawsuit filed Nov. 29 in Logan County Common Pleas Court that the board of education unfairly fired him, adding a state referee determined the district should wait until a criminal case is decided.
“Superintendent O’Donnell prays that the order of termination be reversed … that the board be ordered to reinstate superintendent O’Donnell under superintendent O’Donnell’s employment contract, pay him the loss of salary he has suffered from the date he was suspended without pay to the date that he was reinstated with pay under superintendent O’Donnell’s employment contract …” the lawsuit says.
O’Donnell’s attorney Samuel Shamanksy did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Indian Lake Schools said in a statement that the board had reasons to fire O’Donnell.
“The Board’s resolution, passed on November 20, 2017, provides multiple reasons for terminating Mr. O’Donnell, including, but not limited to, loss of public trust’’ the statement says.
O’Donnell is also seeking to have the board of education pay his contributions to the STRS (State Teacher Retirement System of Ohio) on the back-pay award, all benefit loss and attorney fees. He is also seeking the board physically expunge from its minutes the charges and the record for the hearing, and that he recovers his costs according to the lawsuit.
He is charged in Logan County Common Pleas Court with charges that include rape - child under 13, sexual battery and gross sexual imposition. The alleged victim in the case is not a student at the school. O’Donnell has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
O’Donnell was arrested in June on the charges, and the Indian Lake Board of Education moved quickly to place him on unpaid leave. The board then moved to terminate him, but O’Donnell requested a hearing in front of a state referee. Over a five-day period in August, the board of education tried to prove it had cause to fire O’Donnell. But the state referee, attorney Robert Harrelson, in an opinion released last month, said that board did not prove O’Donnell did anything wrong and should wait to terminate him.
But, according to Indian Lake Schools, Ohio Revised Code allows the board to reject the recommendation and Indian Lake did that late last month and fired him Nov. 20.
“As a matter of law, the board was required to, but did not, give due deference to Referee Harrelson’s findings of fact with respect to all eight charges and his recommendation that all eight charges be dismissed,” the lawsuit says. “The board failed to provide reliable, probative and substantial evidence that there existed good and just cause for Superintendent O’Donnell’s termination and its order of termination is not supported by a preponderance of reliable, probative and substantive evidence…,” the lawsuit continued.
The criminal case against O’Donnell was set to start Dec. 6, but instead the defense and prosecutors agreed to combine his and his wife’s, Heather O’Donnell’s, trial, according to court documents obtained by the Springfield News-Sun. Heather O’Donnell is charged with child endangering. Police said in an affidavit that the child told her about the alleged assaults and she did not act. She has pleaded not guilty
Heather O’Donnell was placed on unpaid leave pending her trial.
The trial against them is set to start Feb. 6.