A vote to censure Wellington representative Ayers Ratliff was cast April 19 by his fellow Lorain County JVS board members following a string of accusations from both sides.
Vocational school leadership accused Ratliff of disrespecting officials, sharing confidential information, attacking JVS superintendent Glenn Faircloth’s credentials, “invoking derogatory racial stereotypes” when speaking with Faircloth (who is black), making remarks that could be perceived as sexual harassment in the presence of female staff members, and trying get involved in individual employee matters and in a pending legal proceeding involving the district.
The censure admonishes Ratliff “to cease and desist from any further conduct of a similar nature so that board members, administrators, and staff may continue to work in an environment of mutual respect and trust for the betterment of our schools and our community.”
The step is largely symbolic and carries no direct penalties — at least for now. However, it could pave the way for consequences down the road if Ratliff and the board cannot resolve their differences.
Ratliff called the censure a “smoke screen.” He said it’s retribution for challenging provisions in a new contract for Faircloth and accusing the superintendent of plagiarizing portions of his college dissertation, both of which occurred last summer during a public meeting.
A recent letter from the Wellington board of education to the JVS asked that Ratliff be reimbursed for more than $300 he’d been charged when requesting copies of meeting records. Ratliff feels that letter was also a deciding factor in his censure.
“I’m tired of being treated like this up here,” he said. “I’ve paid over $300 out of my own pocket in order to get the agenda to do my job. That’s ridiculous and discriminating against me. I know I ask questions. I know they don’t like me, but this is going too far. I’m a watchdog for the taxpayers and children of this community. That’s my job.”
According to JVS treasurer Cory Thompson, Ratliff was charged postage because he requested to have the records mailed rather than picking them up at the superintendent’s office or receiving them electronically. No decision on reimbursing Ratliff has been made but it could be voted on at the JVS board’s May meeting.
Another point of contention between Ratliff and the rest of the JVS board is the handling of a behind-closed-doors session March 15 to discuss a proposed three-day suspension without pay for assistant principal Pat Foreman.
According to Ratliff, the board was required to return to its public meeting room in order to resume regular session and vote on the suspension, which it did not.
Faircloth and board members contended they were only required to resume their regular session before conducting the vote, not return to the meeting’s original room.
Ratliff addressed the board April 19, calling the vote “illegal.”
“We have to come back here, to this room, to complete that vote,” he said. “We conducted a vote and left from that other room when we had to come back here in order for it to be proper. This should say the vote and motion were taken in a different area. That’s an illegal action, I’m telling you. If the person that was deducted wants to take this to court, we’re going to be on the hook for attorney fees or whatever we have to pay.”
Thompson was sent back to the public meeting room March 15 to inform attendees the regular session would resume in the area the executive session had been held in, according to Faircloth.
“We did not have to return to the original room,” Faircloth said. “If anyone is in that room, you make sure they know we’re out of executive session and we’re going to reconvene in this other location.”
Ratliff also demanded an apology for accusations that he’d made racial comments.
He said he’d launched into a Baptist hymn during an executive session that others believed to be racial in nature. He did not say what prompted the rendition or how it was linked to education.
“If there’s anyone that’s been racially profiling someone, it’s Faircloth for calling me a racist after I didn’t vote for his contract,” he said.
Ratliff said he has black grandchildren and to insinuate he would act in a racist manner is an insult to them.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.