LORAIN — The Board of Education is prepared to take legal action to keep its treasurer.
In an effort to keep Josh Hill under his contract, the board unanimously approved allowing city Law Director Pat Riley and his office to explore its options and take any actions necessary to keep Hill in the district.
During the meeting Riley declined to specify what those options could be.
Hill accepted a position with South Euclid Lyndhurst Schools late last month, slated to start Aug. 19. Board members agreed it was crucial to keep Hill in Lorain. They voted at an emergency meeting Aug. 1 to adopt the contract he signed with the CEO — after receiving legal opinion that the CEO was not authorized to negotiate a contract for treasurer as it is a statutory position not addressed in House Bill 70, the 2015 law giving the CEO almost absolute power within the district.
Hill declined to comment on the situation.
Board member Bill Sturgill said he wished things were different, and hoped Hill would honor the contract the board adopted, which now runs through July 31, 2021.
Tim Williams said Hill is an asset to the district. He cited the July 10 deadline for teachers to leave the district under Ohio Revised Code — after that, educators must get permission from their district to leave, or their license can be suspended for a year. It is unclear if that law applies to administrative positions, which is what Hill holds as chief strategy and innovation officer.
With only two weeks to the start of school, Williams said the board would be unable to replace Hill on such short order and the move could negatively impact chances of passing the renewal levy recently placed on the ballot.
The board’s newest member, Courtney Nazario, agreed.
“Josh gives us the checks and balance between the CEO and the spending of the money,” she said. “With him gone, and we don’t know who is going to fill his spot and … (if) he leaves the 19th and school starts the 21st, that makes me nervous as to who is going to spend the money and how our money will be spent.”
After the meeting, when asked if the board had a contingency if Hill was to leave the district — either by fighting the issue legally or otherwise — Board President Mark Ballard said the other issue is who would pick a new treasurer. Ohio Revised Code tasks the Board of Education with selecting a licensed treasurer for the district, but House Bill 70 gives all hiring power to the CEO. Academic Distress Commission Chairman Randall Sampson has previously said the commission would like input on selecting a new treasurer when the time comes.
Board member Yvonne Johnson was absent.
The board’s next meeting is 5 p.m. Aug. 13.