Prince William School Board Members Claim Chairman Threatened Lawsuit

| May 8, 2017 | 0 Comments | Education

Prince William Chairman At-large Ryan Sawyers delivers a presentation on the school board’s budget for 2017-18.

Attorney for Prince William County School Board Chairman At-large Ryan Sawyers’ sent a letter, Wednesday, threatening to sue the school board for obstructing Sawyers’ access to his predecessor’s school division emails.

This is according to Gainesville member Alyson Satterwhite who announced the letter at the May 3 school board meeting, and other board members who backed up her claim.

“I have not filed a lawsuit against anybody,” Sawyers said.

Over spring break, Chairman Ryan Sawyers requested all school emails owned by previous school board, Chairman Milt Johns.

Sawyers has been embattled in a legal suit with Patriot High School Principal, Dr. Michael Bishop, who served as president of a rival youth baseball league. However, in a correspondence with Bristow Beat, last week, Sawyers claims that he requested the emails not to serve any legal battle, but so he could act more consistently with his predecessor.

Division superintendent, Dr. Steven Walts, denied Sawyer’s request for the emails, claiming  there was no precedent for providing this kind of all-encompassing access. Division leadership decided that access would be granted should the school board agree to it via a majority vote.

At Wednesday’s School Board meeting,  Satterwhite asked the board to waive the rules in order to place a new item onto the agenda: a request to hire new counsel to defend school board members in a suit the chairman has or will file. Satterwhite said the school board board needs to retain its own legal counsel as Sawyers’ corresponds with the school division’s attorney.

But, board members were unsure if the matter should  be discussed in open session as it was both a legal matter and a matter of hiring a new person. Satterwhite said she would be willing to take it into close session, but, first, the board was required to vote on whether to place the item on the agenda. The vote, which required a 2/3 majority, failed.

Sattewhiter, Shawn Brann (Acting-Brentville), Willie Deutsch (Coles) and Diane Raulston (Neabsco) voted “yes”; Sawyers and Loree William (Woodbridge) voted “no”; Justin Wilk (Potomac) abstained; and Lillie Jessie (Occoquan) was out of the room.

During “School Board Members’ Time,” Satterwhite revisited the issue.

Claiming Sawyers’ wanted the emails to serve his legal battle with Bishop without issuing specific Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests or subpoenas, she cited parts of Virginia Code 2.2 by which Sawyers could be charged with malfeasance, and be deposed of his office, for using his potion for personal retribution.

Deutsch said during their campaign, he dismissed rumors of Sawyers waning to fire Bishop, saying “that could not possibly be true.” However, after they were both elected, Deutsch claims Sawyers pressured him to support his effort to fire Bishop.

“We have to remember who sees us, and it’s the kids,” said Raulston. “They really do. You think they don’t see you; oh yes, they do…What happened this evening was half right and half wrong….Be very mindful – that we serve the community, we don’t serve ourselves.”

Sawyers made one short statement.

“I won’t continue the nonsense. There’s just plenty of legal matters that were brought up, today, that obviously shouldn’t be spoken in public, but that is what people chose to do… We can handle that as we move forward.”

© 2017, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Education

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