Judge sets charter school precedent

Public districts can no longer stop competitors from moving in to old buildings

BY KIMBALL PERRY • Cincinnati Enquirer • June 1, 2010

CINCINNATI — For the first time, a Hamilton County judge has allowed an exclusive exception to property deed restrictions that could help thwart attempts by public school districts to block school children — and the public money that accompanies them — from going to charter schools across the country.

Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman ruled last week the Cincinnati Public School district cannot prevent Roger Conners from opening a charter school at the old Roosevelt School at 1550 Tremont Street after he bought the building from the district. That ruling came even though the deed on the building carried a clause — that Conners knew about — prohibiting the building from ever again being used for a school.

“There has never been a court in Ohio or the country that has decided to void a deed restriction … as it relates to charter schools,” said Scott Phillips, attorney for Cincinnati Public Schools.

The ruling is ominous for school districts across the state, especially those in major metropolitan areas which no longer can use similar deed restrictions to try to keep charter schools from opening, Maurice Thompson, Conners’ attorney, said Friday.

That’s because the issue largely is about money.

“It’s done to suppress the growth of charter schools in Cincinnati,” said Thompson, director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a private, nonprofit public policy law firm with a goal of preventing government abuses.

Each student who leaves Cincinnati Public Schools for a charter school takes with him or her about $5,700 in public education money to the new school.

Thompson noted about 7,000 Cincinnati students attend charter schools, taking with them about $40 million in state money that previously went to the public schools.

Conners and others bought the building — one of nine the district auctioned off last year because they were dilapidated — for $30,000. His group noted at the time the building would be used for commercial purposes.

Shortly after the sale was complete, Conners told the public school district he planned to open a charter school — publicly financed, privately operated schools that operate independently of and compete with traditional districts — in the building.

Cincinnati Public Schools sued.

Conners argued, and Ruehlman agreed, the district’s deed restrictions violated public policy.

Thompson said it was akin to selling your house and putting a clause in the deed noting the house can’t be sold to a person of a specific race.

“Cincinnati (school district) can’t enforce this restriction, now or in the future,” Thompson said.

Other school districts have tried similar deed restrictions to limit the growth of charter schools and their drain of the public money, Thompson said. Ruehlman’s ruling, he added, ends that.

“This is actually a big issue across the state,” Thompson said, “because they are all losing money to charter schools.”

Phillips noted the “public policy exception” cited by the judge is “rarely used” and shouldn’t have been in this case. It is “highly likely” the district will appeal Ruehlman’s decision, Phillips said Friday.

Conners’ school, the Theodore Roosevelt School, has 12 classrooms and will be for kindergarten through 12th grade. It will focus on an individualized technology-based program.

Already, it has 45 students enrolled and plans to have 150 by the time school opens in mid-August, Thompson said. It has 35 employees, including 18 teachers.

Conners has spent about $100,000 to renovate the unused building and win a zoning change that allows for the building to become — again — a school.

Court: Cincinnati Public Schools Violated State Law

Judge Rules CPS Deed Restrictions Against Charter and Private Schools Illegal

Columbus – Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) policy of prohibiting the sale of unused available public school buildings to charter schools and private schools violates state law, yesterday ruled Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert P. Ruehlman. The judge issued the ruling immediately from the bench. [Read more…]

Cincinnati Public Schools Forfeit State Construction Funding, State Legislator Says

1851 Center Sued CPS Over Handling of Charter Schools

Columbus – State Representative Kris Jordan, a member of the Ohio School Facilities Commission, yesterday notified commission director Richard Murray that Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) has forfeited its statutory right to project funding because of repeated violations of state charter schools provisions. [Read more…]

Ohio Department of Commerce v. 770 West Broad AGA, LLC

770 West Broad AGA, a private contractor, entered into an agreement with the Ohio Department of Commerce to provide work space for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. Under the lease terms, AGA made several improvements to the property at its own expense. Upon completion, the state fined the company over $500,000, alleging prevailing wage laws were violated. AGA refused to pay the fine and filed a court action claiming that prevailing wage did not apply, and that the state’s prevailing wage law violates the Ohio Constitution.

May 4, 2010 – 1851 Center Files Amicus Brief in Ohio Prevailing Wage Law Case

Ohio’s current prevailing wage law is, in part, unconstitutional, the 1851 Center argues in an amicus brief filed in the Tenth District Court of Appeals, Franklin County. The case, Ohio Department of Commerce v. 770 West Broad AGA, LLC, exposes fundamental flaws in the current prevailing wage law.

“Ohio’s prevailing wage law is deeply flawed and unconstitutional because it gives labor unions the legislative power to establish the prevailing wage,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. “Additionally, the law does not provide an intelligible principle for determining the prevailing wage, and it fails to provide a procedure for effective review. Essentially, it allows labor unions to set the wages of non-union workers, without any input from those workers themselves, much less the Department of Commerce or the Ohio legislature.”

While AGA won its case at the trial level, the appellate court reversed.  Notably, both courts declined to address the constitutional issues. The Ohio Supreme Court refused to review the case.

 

 

 

May 3, 2010: Appellate Court Amicus Brief

April 11, 2011: Ohio Supreme Court Amicus Brief

Maurice Thompson talks smoking bans on Detroit’s WJR-AM

With Michigan’s recently enacted smoking ban about to go into effect, Frank Beckmann of WJR-AM Detroit spoke with 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson about his successful efforts challenging Ohio’s smoking ban.

Listen to the interview here:

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Read more about the 1851 Center’s successful challenge of the Ohio smoking ban here.

Stand up to collectivist government: Maurice Thompson addresses the Columbus Tea Party

On Thursday, April 15, 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson addressed a crowd of over 3,000 activists at the Columbus Tea Party’s Tax Day Rally.  He urged them to stand up to paternalistic – we know best – government.  Thompson believes taxpayers should be leery of the state and federal government’s continued path toward collectivist policies.

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Listen to his speech.

Ohio Liberty Council v. Brunner

 

 

On March 22, 2010, the Ohio Liberty Council began the process of the placing a health care freedom constitutional amendment on the November 2010 ballot.

The group filed petition summary language and nearly 3,000 signatures from registered voters in 48 counties with the Ohio Attorney General, who later approved the language as truthful and accurate.

 The amendment provides that:

  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system;
  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance; and
  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance.

The Ohio Liberty Council is a statewide coalition of non-partisan grass roots groups in Ohio including: Central Ohio 9/12 Project, Cincinnati Tea Party, Young Americans for Liberty, Dayton Tea Party, Ohio Freedom Alliance and many more grass roots organizations. By working together, the member groups of the Ohio Liberty Council seek to achieve real results to protect and promote liberty in Ohio. More on the Ohio Liberty Council can be found at http://www.ohiolibertycouncil.org.

On April 9, 2010, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board ruled the proposed constitutional amendment should be split into two parts.

As a result, the board rejected the proposed amendment and told its sponsor, the Ohio Liberty Council, to start over.

 The move placed the Ohio Liberty Council in the untenable position of restarting the amendment language approval process and collecting two sets of 402,275 signatures by June 30. The group asked the Ohio Supreme Court to block the Ballot Board’s action. “The Ohio Ballot Board got it wrong today,” said Warren Edstrom of the Ohio Liberty Council, “We will ask the Ohio Supreme Court to uphold our amendment language and correct this error.”

 On April 14, 2010 the 1851 Center Filed an Ohio Supreme Court Complaint Against the Ballot Board.

In the writ of mandamus filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, the 1851 Center asserted the Ballot Board’s actions were arbitrary and ran counter to the board’s own past precedent. The complaint contended the Ohio Liberty Council’s proposed Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment addressed only one subject and should move forward as one constitutional amendment. Further, the Ballot Board’s ruling “effectively eviscerates the Ohio Liberty Council’s objective, and threatens to eviscerate access to the November, 2010 ballot,” the 1851 Center wrote in the complaint.

“We ask the court to review and correct the Ohio Ballot Board’s improper decision,” said Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center. “Our complaint rightfully attacks the constitutional authority of this unelected body to use its power to perform purely administrative tasks to destroy proposed constitutional amendments with which it disagrees. It does not have the constitutional authority to interfere with the Initiative rights articulated in Section 1, Article II of the Ohio Constitution.”

 On April 29, 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court Ordered the Ballot Board to Certify the Amendment Language.

The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board abused their discretion and violated Ohio law in rejecting ballot language for the proposed Ohio Health Care Freedom Constitutional Amendment. The court ordered Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board to immediately certify the language and allow the petitioners to begin collecting signatures to qualify the issue for the November ballot. A copy of the court ruling is available here.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision upheld the constitutionally-granted rights of citizens to petition their government even when the arbitrary and self-serving decisions of Secretary Brunner and the ballot board attempt to block them,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson, who also drafted the amendment. “Secretary Brunner and the ballot board tried to use their purely administrative powers to destroy a citizen-initiated amendment with which they disagreed. Thankfully, the court checked this abuse, and Ohioans will have the opportunity to put the preservation of their health care freedom to a vote.”

In the decision, the justices wrote, “the ballot board abused its discretion and clearly disregarded R.C. 3505.62.” Further, the court upheld the special protections contained in the Ohio Constitution granting citizens the right to petition government.

Further, the court wrote, “the ballot board has a clear legal duty to liberally construe the right of initiative, and as long as the citizen-initiated proposed amendment bears some reasonable relationship to a single general object or purpose, the board must certify its approval of the amendment as written without dividing it into multiple petitions.”

 

 

 

April 13, 2010: 1851 Center’s Complaint

April 20, 2010: 1851 Center’s Merit Brief

April 22, 2010: Motion in Opposition of Extension

Maurice Thompson w/ WTVN’s Bob Conners on health care admendment

1851 Center for Constitutional Law Executive Director Maurice Thompson and 610 WTVN’s Bob Conners discuss the Ohio Liberty Council’s effort to block new federal health care mandates through a constitutional amendment. The amendment language was drafted by the 1851 Center.  Thompson and Conners believe government’s role should be limited, especially in matters of individual health care coverage. The interview took place on Friday, April 2, 2010, after the Ohio attorney general approved the amendment language.

Listen to the interview:

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Read more about the constitutional amendment here.

AP: ACORN gives up Ohio business license, won’t return

By JULIE CARR SMYTH (AP)
Thursday, March 11, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The community organizing group ACORN has agreed to give up its Ohio business license and not return under another name, as it has in other states, under a settlement struck with a libertarian center that sued it.

U.S. District Judge Herman Weber, in Cincinnati, signed off on the deal, which settles claims brought by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law against ACORN’s voter registration practices. Other terms of the deal are confidential.

The center alleged in a lawsuit filed in 2008 that ACORN’s voter registration drives amounted to organized crime because the group turned in a pattern of fraudulent forms.

Center attorney Maurice Thompson said restricting ACORN’s ability to support or enable other groups to “do what they do” was crucial to the deal, especially in a state he characterized as “ground zero” to their voter advocacy efforts.

“It carries a great deal of significance because, in the absence of that term, ACORN could simply have shut down but reopened the next day as WALNUT or CHESTNUT or whatever and done the exact same thing,” Thompson said. “So our goal was to affect permanent change.”

In other states, including New York and California, ACORN chapters have disbanded and resumed operations under new names.

The California ACORN chapter split from the national organization in January, forming a new nonprofit called the Alliance of Californians for Community Employment, or ACCE.

In New York, where three ACORN employees were caught on video apparently advising a couple posing as a prostitute and her boyfriend to lie about her profession and launder her earnings, ACORN’s local offices disbanded and resumed operations as New York Communities for Change. Prosecutors said they found no criminal wrongdoing by the employees.

That video and a series of others filmed at ACORN offices around the country last year sparked a national scandal and helped drive the organization to near ruin.

ACORN spokesman Kevin Whelan said Thursday the group agreed to surrender its Ohio business license by June 1 and already has closed up shop in the state.

“For reasons unrelated to the lawsuit, ACORN was winding up its staff operations in Ohio anyway,” he said. “So there was no practical reason for us to spend time and money litigating this suit further, even though it was baseless and intended to harass us.”

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, describes itself as an advocate for low-income and minority home buyers and residents. It denied any wrongdoing in Ohio.

Whelan said offshoot groups that have formed as new nonprofits may have help from former ACORN activists but are independent entities. He said no such effort has taken place in Ohio.

“They’re new corporations, incorporated with different boards that include some people that used to be involved with ACORN but also prominent community members from labor and public life,” Whelan said. “So those really are new and different things, although a number of people who played a big role in them played a role in ACORN for a long time.”

Protecting Health Freedom

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law drafted petition language aimed a fighting pending national health care regulations. Read the amendment news release and watch the news conference here. Download the petition here.  Visit the Ohio Liberty Council for more information on this effort here.

The proposed federal health care bills are problematic from a utilitarian, moral, and constitutional perspective. On the following videos, Maurice Thompson of the 1851 Center explains how Ohio can fight unconstitutional health care mandates using the Ohio constitution.

Read the Health Care Freedom Amendment FAQs here.