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A worrying situation is brewing in Monroe County, where two teachers at the Swiss Hills Career Center have been charged with wrongdoing.

Initially, the situation was investigated as a crime; however, law enforcement and the county prosecutor determined that criminal charges were not warranted. Superintendent Robert Caldwell had filed a criminal complaint with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office against heavy equipment driving instructors at the school for allegedly using equipment outside the designated area of ​​operation and taking firewood without permission.

The detectives met with Swiss Hills manager Matt Unger and inspected the area in question. Investigators also questioned the accused instructors. Both have denied the allegations.

After the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the detectives’ report and found that no criminal intent could be proven, some district officials decided to hire a third party to investigate the alleged security concerns. The education council voted 4-1 to hire an outside investigator. Board chairman Ron Winkler opposed the hiring of a private investigator, while members Greg Schumacher, Sarah Smith, Bev Anderson and Jerry Gust voted in favor of the hiring.

“The reason I voted no is that the investigation has already been done by the sheriff’s office, and I think they did a good job” Winkler said, calling the extra effort a waste of taxpayer money. “I think it’s a witch hunt.”

It seems that many members of the public agree with Winkler. More than 30 district residents attended a subsequent council meeting on May 26, holding signs expressing their support for the instructors and circulating a petition calling on the district to “Immediately stop all investigations” of the two teachers and return them to the positions they held before the survey. Both remain employed at the school, but they no longer teach the heavy equipment class.

Council members only met in an executive session that evening. They did not respond to the participants and did not allow any of them time to speak at the special meeting.

Throughout this controversy, parents and other residents have taken to social media to express their dismay. In doing so, they shared the names of the instructors involved. These names also appeared on signs held by meeting participants. And they were included in a police report obtained by our reporter.

Yet we at The Times Leader have chosen not to publish the names of the defendants. Our readers may be wondering why, when everyone seems to know who they are, we would refuse this information.

It all comes down to this: We always strive to be fair.

The two men in question were initially charged with a felony. Experts in the field – law enforcement officials and lawyers working in the prosecutor’s office – determined that no crime had been committed and that no charges would be brought against them.

As a general rule, we do not publish the names of individuals who are the subject of allegations unless criminal charges are laid. We also do not publish the names of minors accused of crimes.

It is also true that most public entities – from school boards to county commissions, councils and boards of directors – withhold the names of employees who are the subject of investigation or disciplinary action. This complies with the Ohio Open Meetings Act, which allows closed-door meetings to discuss “Personnel matters”.

In this situation, we believe that it would be unfair for us to publish the names of these teachers since no criminal charges have been laid.

If that changes, or if the third party investigation leads to some kind of public discipline of these people by the district, we may need to reconsider our position on the matter.

The council will then meet at 6:00 p.m. Thursday at the council office, located at 304 Mill Street, Woodsfield. Members should discuss the situation at this time.

In the meantime, we want our readers to know and understand that we know the identity of these people. In fact, our reporter spoke to them. If they decided to come forward and share their side of the story, we would identify them in our reports.

For now, however, we will refrain from sharing their identities, according to the high standards we try to hold ourselves to every day.

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About Rachel Gooch

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