October 21, 2014

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Lorain board member: Notification delay helped ensnare district in union dispute

LORAIN — Board of Education members weren’t notified by former Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson and school board attorney Anthony Giardini about the state threatening to cut off funding for the $73 million new high school for more than two years, according to board member Jim Smith.

State taxpayers are paying 81 percent of the cost. The 2011 warning by the Ohio School Facilities Commission was related to a local hiring agreement with unions, known as a Project Labor Agreement.

The agreement, approved by the board in 2010, called for “good faith efforts” to ensure 50 percent of all project workers are from Lorain or Lorain County. The agreement also called for workers to be unionized, and receive prevailing wages and for the establishment of an apprenticeship program for Lorain Schools students to work on the project.

On March 5, Giardini wrote to the Sandusky-based North Central Ohio Building and Construction Council that the district was reluctantly canceling the agreement because it couldn’t afford to build the school without state money. The cancellation prompted the council to sue the board and commission in July.

The case is due back in court Dec. 5. Superintendent Tom Tucker said Thursday he doesn’t know if the suit could delay construction. Bidding had been scheduled to begin in October. The school, at 2600 Ashland Ave., is scheduled to open in August 2016

Atkinson was notified in an April 28, 2011, letter from the commission. Even though the agreement was made before Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order banning agreements involving state taxpayer money, the letter said no waiver would be granted because construction hadn’t begun.

Atkinson quit in 2012 and couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday. It is unclear why there was a nearly two-year gap between Atkinson being informed of the commission’s decision and Giardini informing the union.

Smith in a Monday email to The Chronicle-Telegram, wrote that board members never discussed dropping the agreement or authorized Giardini to tell the union it was being dropped.

“The board only learned of the signed PLA, the OSFC rejection letter and the Giardini letter when its members were informed of the lawsuit,” wrote Smith who has long feuded with Giardini and was highly critical of Atkinson.

Smith said Thursday that if board members had been notified in 2011, a compromise might have been reached with the state and the lawsuit avoided. He said the agreement states it is, “contingent upon its acceptance by the Ohio School Facilities Commission as well as funding and contract approval by the aforementioned OSFC.”

Smith said the wording of Giardini’s letter gave the union ammunition to sue, and Giardini should’ve requested board approval before sending it.

“Why in the world would we ever tell the union we were not going to honor the Project Labor Agreement when the Project Labor Agreement clearly gave the state to do the right to do what they did?” Smith asked. “When we voted on that in 2010, it was clearly stated in the resolution that the Project Labor Agreement for the high school was contingent on the approval of the Ohio School Facilities Commission.”

Board members held a special meeting Thursday — Smith didn’t attend — in which it designated only Tucker to speak for them regarding the lawsuit. Tucker and Giardini said after the meeting that Tucker — who took over in August 2012 — authorized Giardini to notify the union.

“There’s no way I’d ever do that without the superintendent instructing me,” Giardini said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com


  • Denise Caruloff

    I may be wrong..but doesn’t the attorney (giardini) work for the school board, and not the Superintendent? Wouldn’t the attyorney be remiss in not speaking with the board, since they are his employer?

    “Tucker and Giardini said after the meeting that Tucker — who took over in August 2012 — authorized Giardini to notify the union. “There’s no way I’d ever do that without the superintendent instructing me,” Giardini said.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Plaintiff:
    North Central Ohio Building and Construction
    Council, ETC
    Vs.
    Defendant:
    Lorain City Schools District and OSFC

    Answer of the Defendant filed with Clerk of
    Courts on 7-26-13 Case # 13CV180881

    PG.3 Last paragraph states as follows:
    “WHEREFORE, having fully answered the complaint,
    the defendant LCSD requests that this Honorable Court issue an order requiring
    all parties to comply with the terms of the PLA, and requiring the defendant
    OSFC to fulfill the obligations to pay for its share of the construction costs
    as required by the agreement between the LCSD and the OSFC”.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Anthony B. Giardini #0006922
    Attorney for the Defendant
    Lorain City Schools District

    ***********************************************

    So I ask (with all due
    respect) is Attorney Anthony Giardini (Counsel for the LCSD) siding with
    the plaintiff (Union) in his reply? Who is he working for, the LCSD or the
    Union?

    ***********************************************
    Defendant: State of Ohio
    Office of the Attorney
    General
    Lorain City School
    District

    Board of Education
    “ANSWER OF THE DEFENDANTS OHIO SCHOOL FACILLITIES COMMISSION AND
    OHIO FACILITIES CONSTRUCTION COMISSION” filed with Lorain Common Pleas Court 8-12-13

    Pg. 10 last paragraph
    “WHEREFORE, having fully
    answered, OSFC and OFCC request that Plaintiffs’ Complaint be dismissed, with
    prejudice, at Plaintiffs expense, and that this Court award OSFC and OFCC the
    costs and expenses that it has incurred in defending Plaintiffs claims.”

    Respectfully submitted,
    MICHAEL DeWINE
    Ohio Attorney General

  • Rear_View

    Ha, Ha, Ha!!! So what’s new??? YOU (and I mean YOU) have allowed Tony G. and his band of misfit cronies to manipulate and monopolize the city of Lorain (including the LCS) for YEARS!!! This guy LOVES the citizens of Lorain… they line his pockets with cold hard cash DAILY!!!

  • stillsleepyeyes

    What a puppet show……………..gardwennie at his best…………………gonna get every little dime he can out of the tax payer……………..pass another tax in lorain and watch gardwennie smile………….just like them independent union boys on council now……………as so now the almighty gardwennie will get paid from both sides……the school…………………….and the union……………………

  • GreatRedeemer

    It must be hard to manage conflicts of interest , ideology ,
    the taxpayers hard earned money while being pro union and being the Schools lawyer.

  • CharlesMartel732

    crooks