Thursday, February 13, 2003

Suit over superintendent selection dismissed

By William A. Weathars
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit in which The Cincinnati Enquirer accused the Cincinnati Board of Education of civil rights violations over the way it selected its new superintendent.

The lawsuit alleged that the board's seven members, a Milwaukee recruiting firm, new superintendent Alton Frailey and three other finalist candidates conspired to keep candidates' identities confidential by using aliases, accepting cash payments for travel expenses and withholding resumes.

In his decision, Judge S. Arthur Spiegel said "Plaintiff has not demonstrated a historical basis for access of resumes returned to candidates or for forcing a school board to create records. Nor has Plaintiff demonstrated that public access plays a positive role in the recruitment process that outweighs the obvious negative effects."

Therefore, the judge said, he granted the defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, and finds that there is no First Amendment violation and the individual board members are entitled to qualified immunity as their conduct violated no clearly established constitutional right.

Judge Spiegel also expressed the court's "dismay" with the process the board used to impede access by the press, noting the board has the ability to call a private session to handle recruitment matters.

"We are pleased with the decision of the court," said Cincinnati schools spokeswoman Jan Leslie. "We feel it reinforced the process we used to secure the best superintendent for Cincinnati Public Schools."

Enquirer lawyer Jack Greiner said the decision may be appealed.

"We're just reviewing the decision," Mr. Greiner said. "We'll be making a decision about what the next appropriate steps will be."


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