Remember When Lakota Paid $175,000 to an Employee over Ethical Violations: The cost of mismanagement of public employees is extraordinarily high

For the quick answer that is being talked about because of the Lakota superintendent’s lawsuit threat letters, the response to them would, of course, be frivolous litigation aggressively pursued based on The New York Times v. Sullivan case of 1964. In that well-known case, criticism of public officials protected by the 1st and 14th Amendments ensures that legal recourse is off limits for pursuing damages. The price for a life in public office and the comforts that come with living off public funds is that criticism is healthy for an honest exchange of information. No matter how crazy the information may be, which hasn’t been the case with this Lakota superintendent case, it is protected under the American Constitution. There is consistent case law that resolves the issue to the extent that any challenge to it would perfectly justify a knowingly frivolous abuse of litigation and the time of the courts themselves. And with that known, the aggressive attack on the public by sending out threatening letters to around ten community members just because they expressed themselves about the kind of private conduct that Matt Miller has utilized in his life has only caused a lot more anger. Because of this aggressive act, and what has been learned about what the school board knew and when, now there have been explorations of class action litigation against Lakota schools themselves for the reckless spending of taxpayer funds that have gone on not just in the actions of protecting their superintendent from public judgment, but in several other instances as well. Currently, a group of people are adding up all the costs and instances so that a coherent story can be pieced together by the evidence, and further action is pending in those assemblies. 

Yet, along the way, it has been noticed that a lawsuit filed by former teacher union leadership member Emily Osterling won her $175,000 in 2019 for wrongful termination back in 2017. At that time, Matt Miller put forth an 11-page resolution that listed a series of allegations, none of them criminal, pertaining to Osterling’s dealings with students and their parents. The resolution illustrated behavior that was willful and persistent violations of board policy pertaining to staff ethics as well as Ohio’s code of professional conduct for educators. And federal laws govern how she educates and serves the students. Well, that got some people’s attention since we had all just been told that any of the Lakota superintendent’s actions revealed from his very explicit divorce records that his conduct wasn’t illegal. And that morality wasn’t a consideration of employment. Upon learning about all this behavior, many people in the Lakota district were shocked that Lakota didn’t have a “morality clause” in the superintendent’s contract like other schools do. And in that oversight, they have allowed a very aggressive, a very progressive activist and an unwelcomed figure into our community at a high cost, with no way to get rid of him. And that has brought up the excessive cost of keeping that employee with indirect costs that go far beyond his actual salary and benefits. By the time his cost to Lakota is added up due to lawyer fees, public relations firms, and other burdens connected to other instances of similar mismanagement, it looks to be in the many thousands of dollars. Even millions if we go back to all the circumstances since his hiring in 2017 when that Emily Osterling case occurred. Now I’m not suddenly a supporter of teacher union members. But the point of this matter is how Emily Osterling could be held to some standard of values and even terminated from her job when Matt Miller was not held to the same standard as a superintendent for essentially doing much worse. 

Matt Miller was always nice in my presence, so I was shocked to learn that several school board members thought Matt would sue the district over his contract for a lot of money if he were terminated over the revelation of his divorce revelations in 2020. I had my doubts about this until I saw how he behaved toward the community who learned about his private life and expressed themselves as to why they didn’t like it. The letter I received was very aggressive, and my policy on that kind of thing was to hit back many times harder. That’s when discussion about a class action case started to take root in gathering up all the facts and the timeline. And after reading that letter, it was obvious that the school board’s worries were justified. However, to understand the law, it would have been better to settle the issue in court than to dig deeper into the trouble with attempts to cover it all up with PR firms and lawyers. Understanding the constitutional limits of legal recourse, it would have been perfectly justified to counter any such attack with frivolous litigation given the context of his contract concerning community reputation, which was his burden to maintain healthily. 

With the standard set by the Emily Osterling case, it’s evident that a community precedent had been established in removing her as an employee. It didn’t hold up in court, and they ended up paying her out a lot of money. Add her case to the many others out there and we have a serious case of mismanagement at the school board level over a long period of time. The job has been too big for them to handle since they give everything to some professional class to take care of, which ends up costing a lot of money. Of course, there will be justifiable legal costs, with legal firms and PR outlets, but what we are seeing is a massive amount of waste, waste we wouldn’t have noticed unless Lakota’s superintendent decided to attack members of the community in these bizarre ways as if he were entitled to employment, no matter what his personal conduct revealed. Much of this he has done to himself through his own mismanagement of his own life. Then Lakota, as a district, has had to spend a lot of money to protect him from his own actions. Then when you add up all those costs to all other similar disputes with other employees and public relations problems, you get quite a large number. And that large number results from massive mismanagement by a public-school culture that is out of control and not aligned with the community that pays for it.

And in many cases, the only correction we have for such bad behavior on a massive scale is the constitutional protections of The New York Times v. Sullivan, 1964. No wonder progressives everywhere want to shut down free speech. But all the law of our country is built around constitutional law, not the protection of public employees by a judgmental public. Without those judgments, there is literally nothing to keep public employees honest. And what is such an insult with this case at Lakota, despite learning that the very things that are happening now and being justified as correct were the same things that same superintendent did to get rid of other employees, for ethical standards. And to keep people from talking about it, he sent out nasty threats to people hoping to crush criticism which in his case, the criticisms are more than well justified. The best advice anybody could give him would be that he shouldn’t be making news if he doesn’t want to be in the news. And threatening the community for their anger at his actions is making news, not the kind Lakota would like to have. But it’s just the latest in a long history of mistakes that have cost a fortune and have nothing to do with funding education for children. 

Rich Hoffman

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