Lakota superintendent cleared in investigation but agrees to undergo ‘fitness for duty’ evaluation

Lakota School’s governing board met Wednesday evening and immediately went into into executive session, coming out of the private session two hours later to announce Superintendent Matt Miller will soon undergo a “fitness for duty” review by the board but has been exonerated by a private investigation they contracted to be done regarding non-criminal allegations against him.

The private executive session by the board included a representative of an investigative firm, hired last month by the Lakota Board of Education, presenting the company’s findings to board members and Miller about the legal firm’s review of the superintendent.

When the board reconvened into a public session, President Lynda O’Connor read from a statement and asked the board to approve her resolution, which included an unspecified date for Miller’s “fitness for duty” review to be conducted.

Miller’s attorney said the allegations against the superintendent are without merit and amount to a “witch hunt” and that he has cooperated fully with the school board and law enforcement.

In recent months the governing board of Ohio’s eighth-largest public school system has been embroiled in controversy as Miller was the focus of an investigation by the Butler County Sheriff’s office — based on allegations — but no cause for criminal charges were found, said officials in the county prosecutor’s office.

Nevertheless, the non-criminal allegations prompted the school board in late September to vote to hire a private investigative firm to review some of Miller’s behavior.

At the time Lakota Board President Lynda O’Connor said the investigation will include: “a review of events to confirm that the superintendent is not a threat to students or to staff.”

O’Connor noted Wednesday the board had earlier voted unanimously to hire the investigation firm “to provide our community with an additional level of assurance that all of the relevant facts had been discovered in an unbiased and lawful manner.”

“The scope of this investigation included an in-depth, forensic audit of all (electronic) devices used by Superintendent Miller.”

“The investigator found no evidence indicating that Mr. Miller engaged in any act that violates law, district policy or his contract,” said O’Connor as part of her proposed board resolution.

“As a final precautionary step to confirm the results, the board and Mr. Miller have agreed to a fitness for duty evaluation that will take place very soon.”

“The board’s process has been very thorough.”

But, she added, “I think the board will acknowledge that even these best efforts will probably not be acceptable to some. However, we must move forward and focus our attention on prioritizing the education of Lakota students,” she said.

The board then approved O’Connor’s resolution by a 4-1 vote, with member Darbi Boddy casting the “no” vote.

Boddy then proposed a resolution to have the board order Miller placed “on leave and the board to begin the process for his removal.”

Her resolution, however, was not seconded by any of the other members and so did not proceed further.

The board also allowed public comment from the audience for the first time since a vote last month by the governing board of Lakota’s 17,200-student district to temporarily suspend public participation on advice from the district’s attorney.

The attorney at that time cited a lawsuit filed by a resident who claims the board has illegally restricted the freedoms of some speakers at recent meetings who were criticizing the Lakota board and district officials including Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller.

After the Oct. 13 meeting, the board’s Vice President – Isaac Adi – was filmed by a school parent reaching to grab the parent’s mobile phone after Adi was seen adamantly complaining to some critics of the board’s action to shut down public comment at meetings for a then undetermined amount of time.

Miller attended both the executive session and public portions of Wednesday’s meeting but made no comment during the public proceedings.

His attorney, Elizabeth Tuck, however, said Miller was pleased with the results of the private investigation and that “he has been cleared now twice of these outrageous, defamatory accusations.”

“He has been cooperating one hundred percent throughout this process,” and Tuck described the allegations as “quite simply a witch hunt and we hope it is over.”

And, she added, “we are considering legal recourse against the individuals who initiated and perpetuated these falsehoods.”

“It’s a travesty and it’s unfortunate we live in a time where some people feel free to say things to try to ruin somebody’s life and ruin their career because of some difference of opinion,” said Tuft.

Since his hiring in 2017 Miller had garnered wide attention for his sweeping changes made to Ohio’s eighth largest public school system.

Previously, he was the superintendent of Mentor Schools in northern Ohio.

Documents obtained through an Ohio Public Records request in September by the Journal-News revealed no written reprimands or criticism of Miller by the Mentor Board of Education or any notations of concerns about his leadership during his years there.

In December 2020, Miller received a five-year extension of his contract from the then school board that has since seen the contractual provisions in his employment agreement raise his base salary to more than $200,000.

(Editor’s note: Because no charges have been filed against Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller, nor have any accusations been made public by the district, the Journal-News is not reporting the allegations.)

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