O’Donnell civil suit continues

Indian Lake BOE hires new superintendent

By Jim Painter - For the Sidney Daily News

LEWISTOWN – A sex crime conviction is not deterring former Indian Lake Local Schools Superintendent Patrick O’Donnell from pursuing a civil lawsuit seeking back pay regarding his ouster by the school board last year. The board plans to stand their ground as the lawsuit moved forward last week.

On Tuesday, the board hired a new superintendent and issued a statement regarding the lawsuit.

Interim Superintendent Rob Underwood was named superintendent when the board of education unanimously approved a five-year contract that officially begins Aug. 1. His annual base salary will be $111,000, according to Jaime Ross, Indian Lake Public Relations liaison.

Underwood took over the interim position on June 19, 2017, when O’Donnell was suspended and later dismissed for sexual misconduct charges with a minor.

Following O’Donnell’s arrest on a grand jury indictment in July, he was released on a $150,000 bond. Soon after O’Donnell was placed on unpaid leave because he was arrested and not able to report to work. On Nov. 19, the board unanimously terminated his contract.

In July, O’Donnell, 52, was indicted on 14 charges: four counts of rape, all first-degree felonies, four counts of sexual battery, all second-degree felonies, and six counts of gross sexual imposition, all third-degree felonies. He was facing the possibility of consecutive life sentences.

On Nov. 29, O’Donnell filed the civil lawsuit against the local school board seeking reinstatement as superintendent citing the board’s alleged wrongful action of terminating him. He is also seeking payment of back pay since the time of his arrest.

The suit claims school board members were in error on Nov. 19 when they unanimously rejected an Ohio State Education Department recommendation to wait until the legal process of the sexual misconduct case played itself out.

O’Donnell takes plea deal; loses educational certification

On Feb. 7, O’Donnell entered a specified guilty plea to one count of gross sexual imposition, a third-degree felony, in Logan County Common Pleas Court. He entered an Alford Plea, a move that allows the defendant to maintain his claim of innocence even though he is pleading guilty.

Part of the agreement is that O’Donnell can no longer work in education.

When sentenced on March 19, the Lewistown resident faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. State mandates will result in O’Donnell being listed a Tier II sex offender for 25 years requiring his reporting to authorities every 18 months. He will also lose his eligibility to become a government employee, including the loss of his education certifications indefinitely.

Also, he will not be able to live within 1,000 feet of a school, permitted to vote, hold any elected office, serve on a jury, or own firearms. The charge is not expungable and will remain on his record forever.

His wife and co-defendant, Heather O’Donnell, 46, was cleared of two child endangering charges, third-degree felonies. Mrs. O’Donnell recently resigned as superintendent of the Midwest Regional Educational Service Center in Sidney.

Board statement

During the meeting Tuesday, the Indian Lake school board issued an update through a prepared statement regarding the ongoing civil lawsuit.

It read, in part, “Attorneys for both the Indian Lake Board of Education and Patrick O’Donnell gathered for a scheduling meeting on Feb. 14, concerning Mr. O’Donnell’s lawsuit against the district. The result of the hearing was that the plaintiff’s briefs (O’Donnell) will be due to the Logan County Common Pleas Court on or about April 16. The district’s brief is due on or about May 7 with the plaintiff’s reply due on or about May 28.”

“The board intends to fully defend this matter using insurance defense council. The cost of the (legal) defense is covered by the district’s insurance policy.”

O’Donnell’s attorney, Samuel Shamansky of Columbus, did not answer several attempts by the Sidney Daily News to reach him for comment.

O’Donnell had been with the Indian Lake School District since 2010. Sidney City Schools had employed him for 20 years where he served as the district’s superintendent, principal at Northwood Elementary School and a teacher.

Indian Lake BOE hires new superintendent

By Jim Painter

For the Sidney Daily News

The writer is a regular contributor for the Sidney Daily News.

The writer is a regular contributor for the Sidney Daily News.