By RYAN DUNN
Liberty-Benton School District has paid nearly $70,000 in legal bills during its effort to fire teacher Mark Badertscher, and the case is not over.
A Hancock County judge last month reinstated Badertscher, ruling the school board failed to prove it had good cause for the firing. The school district owes Badertscher two years of back pay and benefits, according to the decision.
During a 7 a.m. special meeting today, school board members intend to start an appeal of the judge’s ruling, Superintendent Jim Kanable said.
The school district’s attorney fees as of July 7 were $69,660. They were paid from the district’s general fund. The figure was disclosed Monday after a June 23 records request from The Courier.
The district’s legal costs for the appeal will be mostly covered by an insurance company, Kanable said.
The potential bill for Badertscher’s back pay and benefits cannot be determined yet, said Lisa Dobbins, treasurer for the school district.
At this point, a figure would be “merely speculative,” she said.
Badertscher earned $70,881 as a Liberty-Benton teacher during the 2011-12 school year, according to the state treasurer’s salary database.
Liberty-Benton fired Badertscher, a 22-year veteran with the district, following a May 2012 incident between two unsupervised students.
Badertscher briefly left his classroom to set up a final examination in a nearby room. While he was gone, one student put another student in a chokehold, and the student being choked briefly lost consciousness.
Badertscher noticed nothing wrong upon his return to the classroom, according to Common Pleas Judge Reginald Routson.
The school board initially compiled 10 numbered claims for removing Badertscher, including failure to monitor his classroom. But the board did not list the chokehold incident as one of the numbered reasons, which “unnecessarily limited” their argument for firing him, Routson wrote.
Routson wrote that the school board failed to prove the other allegations against Badertscher.
The board also fired him despite an Ohio Department of Education referee’s report recommending Badertscher be reinstated.
Badertscher’s attorney, John Roca of Liberty-Benton Teacher’s Association, did not return a call seeking comment Monday.