A complaint against the PENNCREST school board and its superintendent alleging a Sunshine Act violation ran into two obstacles on Wednesday.

Crawford County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Stevens recused himself because his wife is an administrator in the district and he said the complaint cannot be heard in Motions Court.

Robert H. Johnston Jr. of Hayfield Township alleges the school board and district Superintendent Michael J. Healey violated the Sunshine Act when the board and superintendent appealed a court ruling allowing a school board member to view invoices from the district’s attorney. Johnston’s complaint, which he filed Friday, alleges PENNCREST filed its appeal without a board vote in a public meeting and it was filed without knowledge of the full board of directors.

The Sunshine Act requires votes by the boards of government agencies and most of its public discussions about agency business to take place at meetings open to the public and advertised in advance. 

Johnston, a candidate for one of four four-year seats up for election in November, represented himself in court Wednesday. Stevens told Johnston he would pass along his complaint to another judge and that Johnston would be notified by mail after the complaint was reviewed.

Stevens asked Johnson if he followed procedure for serving the complaint to the district's board and superintendent. Johnston replied he hand-delivered the complaint to the school district administration office.

Johnston isn’t the only person objecting to the appeal.

Brian Pulito filed a motion in county court on Wednesday on behalf of school board member Luigi DeFrancesco.

DeFrancesco filed a lawsuit in September 2016 against the school board and Healey after attempts to view invoices from Ted Watts, the school district’s attorney, were denied. The suit alleged the school district was withholding financial information from the board. The complaint claimed board members do not have access to financial invoices before they vote on them.

On Aug. 31, Judge John Spataro ordered DeFrancesco could view past and future school board invoices. The court denied a request to order current invoices be made available. On Sept. 28, Michael Musone, the attorney representing the superintendent and the school board, appealed that ruling.

DeFrancesco wants a hearing "at which the defendants will have to establish under what authority they (the superintendent and the school board) filed the appeal,” Pulito said.

A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 20, according to Pulito. 

"We have also prepared an appeal to my client’s right to know request," he said.

DeFrancesco, as well as school board president Jason Bakus and Watts, who was representing the district, were in the courtroom Wednesday. 

Lorri Drumm can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at lorrid@meadvilletribune.com.

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