(UPDATED with copy of ruling.) A judge's ruling against Melody Adelman was a "tough blow" for her, but she feels vindicated through his opinion that theft allegations were unsupported, Adelman's attorney said Tuesday.
Visiting Judge Thomas J. Pokorny ruled Monday that while the allegations of theft were unsupported, the evidence taken together justified Adelman's firing.
(NOTE - To read the judge's complete ruling, click on the link at the end of this story.)
"I'm glad that the judge supported our position that the allegation of theft was unsupported by the evidence," attorney Timothy Dempsey said Tuesday. "That was their lead allegation against her."
Still, Dempsey said he and Adelman are surprised that Pokorny affirmed the Willard school board's decision to fire her.
The school board unanimously voted to terminate Adelman on Sept. 13. A state audit released in October indicated Adelman made improper purchases to the tune of misspending nearly $75,000. Then Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor released the report roughly five months after Willard City Schools Superintendent David Danhoff placed Adelman on leave for suspected mismanagement of funds and other allegations.
"I believe that it was a matter of policies and procedures that were in place for 20 some years," Dempsey said. "Obviously the (new) people in charge this year did not like those policies and procedures. Instead of changing them they decided to change the person in charge because they didn't like her."
Dempsey noted that Adelman worked at the district for 22 years and never had a negative review.
"But they assumed the worst about her," he said, referring to school officials. "Normally you don't do that to someone who has been a faithful employee for 22 years. You give them a chance to work something out."
Dempsey said allegations that Adelman didn't bill organizations in a timely manner do not amount to gross inefficiency.
Dempsey said he has 30 days from Monday to appeal further to a Toledo court. He said he needs to talk to Adelman and her husband, Mike, before taking that action.
Dempsey conceded it is harder to win an appeal with each court above the originating one, in this case Huron County Common Pleas Court. An appellate judge could only reverse Pokorny's decision if he felt the visiting judge "screwed up" and got the ruling wrong, Dempsey said.
If an appellate judge affirms Pokorny's decision, Adelman would have the option of appealing to the Ohio Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.