BELLEFONTAINE — Former Indian Lake Superintendent Patrick O’Donnell was denied in his hopes of overturning action that led to his termination late last year. In a civil lawsuit he filed against the district, the court ruled the school board terminated him through proper means, even though a state referee recommended otherwise.
O’Donnell, 53, was pursuing the lawsuit seeking back pay regarding his ouster when sexual misconduct charges began to surface. He was found guilty in February on a charge of gross sexual imposition, a third-degree felony, with a minor female.
On Aug. 28, Logan County Common Pleas Court Judge William Goslee filed his ruling stating O’Donnell had received a fair administrative hearing regarding his firing. In his conclusion, he said, in part, “The board’s decision to reject the referee’s recommendation is not contrary to law and was supported by the great weight of the evidence.”
In July 2017, O’Donnell, 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.
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.
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.
The suit claimed school board members were in error on Nov. 19 when they unanimously rejected an Ohio Department of Education recommendation to wait until the legal process of the sexual misconduct case played itself out.
On Feb. 7, O’Donnell was found guilty after he entered a specified Alford guilty plea following a last-minute plea agreement reached just before the trial was to begin. The Alford plea allowed O’Donnell to maintain his claim of innocence even though he pleaded guilty.
The move also erased charges pending against his wife, and co-defendant, Heather O’Donnell, which included two child endangering charges for not reporting the incident when the girl made the allegations. She faced a maximum three-year sentence on each count, if convicted.
On March 19, Goslee sentenced Mr. O’Donnell to six months less than the five-year maximum allowable term. He was not fined but was assessed the court costs.
State mandates resulted 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.
O’Donnell is currently incarcerated at the London Correctional Institution.
On Tuesday, Indian Lake Public Relations Specialist Jaime Ross released a statement from the school board.
It states, “The Indian Lake School Board is pleased with the court’s decision to affirm our action in the dismissal of Pat O’Donnell. We believe that the judgment entry recently filed by Logan County Common Pleas Court Judge William Goslee validates our careful decision in this matter.
“Our focus throughout this process has always been, and will continue to be, on student achievement, safety and well-being.”
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.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.