Banned Lakota Schools board member Darbi Boddy asks court for reprieve

Lakota Schools board member Darbi Boddy, who has effectively been banned from meetings due to a civil protection order, has asked the 12th District Court to loosen the edict to allow her to attend meetings, pending appeal.

Boddy has been ordered to stay 500 feet — the equivalent of 15 school buses — from fellow school board member Isaac Adi after he successfully obtained a civil protection order to stop her from harassing him. It means she can’t attend the upcoming school board meeting on Oct. 2. If she does she’ll be arrested.

Her attorney, Robert Croskery, filed a notice of appeal to the 12th District Court of Appeals on Thursday and Friday introduced an emergency motion asking the court to modify the order so she can attend meetings, “in the interim while adhering to the order in all other respects.”

He noted they are confident the protective order — that outlined several incidents between the two school board members — will be expunged.

“If this recitation of offensive activity seems pretty thin for a ‘stalking’ case, it is, in fact, because the activity (consisting entirely of political speech and Ms. Boddy’s attempts to fill her responsibility to her constituents) is so thin as to be practically invisible,” Croskery wrote. “While Darbi Boddy has little doubt that, upon the expedited typing of the record and placing it before this Court, that this Order will be reversed as erroneously granted, that remedy will be too late for her public duty to school Board meetings that are taking place in the interim.”

Adi filed for the order against Boddy, alleging on several occasions she harassed him and caused him such mental distress he had to be hospitalized. Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Greg Howard approved the order penned by Magistrate Matthew Reed on Wednesday.

He wrote that, because Adi didn’t side with her on certain issues, Boddy “took every opportunity to exert pressure, bully, and, at times, punish petitioner by embarrassing him in front of others.”

“The court finds that petitioner has established by a preponderance of the evidence that the actions of respondent have caused him mental distress,” Reed wrote. “And if left unchecked will continue to cause petitioner mental distress.”

Under the standard order, Boddy cannot go into any building or place she “knows or should know the protected persons are likely to be, even with a protected person’s permission.” She is not allowed to tamper with any of his possessions, contact him in any way or encourage anyone else to harass him. The order stands until Sept. 20, 2025.

The appellate court system generally does not move very quickly because of clogged dockets and five days isn’t much time, but 12th District Court Administrator Ben Manning told the Journal-News the court will endeavor to make a timely decision.

“If we need to make a decision by a certain time, we try to do that,” Manning said. “And we try to get input from all parties before we make any decisions. I’d say we’ll try to make a ruling on it if we possibly can.”

The pandemic-era virtual meeting option expired in July 2022, but according to the Ohio School Board Association website, as long as there is an in-person quorum, members can attend virtually. But there are caveats.

“Such participation would be limited to listening to and participating in the board’s discussions,” the rule reads. “A board member who participates via electronic means may not be counted for quorum purposes, nor may the board member vote.”

If Boddy attended via Zoom or some other platform, it would likely defeat the purpose of the protection order — she is accused of causing him mental distress by berating and embarrassing him at public meetings here and mainly at a training seminar they both attended in Florida.

Croskery gave a litany of reasons in his emergency motion why the protection order is unjust and violates her civil rights. He wrote the statement about her “bullying” Adi is “naïve at best.”

“Politics is not for the faint of heart. People, including other Board members, consistently seek to ridicule and embarrass Darbi Boddy. She is often the sole vote against certain issues. She is routinely criticized,” Croskery wrote. “Yet to silence her in the School Board forum because she offers her genuine and critical opinions of others in the process of supporting her constituents in the guise of a ‘civil stalking order’ is both violative of her First Amendment rights and of her substantive due process rights in supporting her constituents.”

The rift between Boddy and the rest of the board began at the start of her term in 2022. She and Adi ran together and won seats after campaigning on a conservative platform. He broke ties after the board voted to censure her — thousands of people also signed petitions to recall her — and demanded she resign for her combative behavior towards former superintendent Matt Miller among numerous other issues.

Miller resigned in January due to “the increasingly hostile work environment caused by Ms. (Darbi) Boddy.”

Past efforts to remove her have failed but this current situation could have that result, according to John Price, a staff attorney for the school board association. Depending on how long she is banned from meetings — if she fails at the appeals court — she could be deemed to have vacated her office.

“There is a provision in the Ohio Revised Code that a vacancy can occur by a board member’s absence from meetings for a period of 90 days,” Price said. “The statute says if such absence is caused by reasons declared insufficient by a two-thirds vote of the remaining board.”

Adi’s attorney Rob Lyons couldn’t be reached for comment.

Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser and Sheriff Richard Jones made it very clear if Boddy goes near Adi she will be arrested. Gmoser told the Journal-News this emergency motion doesn’t change anything.

“Until there is a stay of that order or a reversal of that order on appeal the order stands,” Gmoser said. “If she violates the terms as specified in the order she will be arrested.”

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