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Ranallo named interim superintendent

November 26, 2013
By DAVE GOSSETT - For The Weirton Daily Times (dgossett@heraldstaronline.com) , Weirton Daily Times

STEUBENVILLE - Three Steubenville school employees, including Superintendent Mike McVey, were placed on paid administrative leave Monday night and the Steubenville board of education has asked retired Superintendent Richard Ranallo to serve as the interim acting school superintendent.

The school board members met in a two-hour executive session with their attorney before announcing their decision.

"The three school employees have been assigned to work at home," said board Vice President Ruth Ann Bruzzese following the special school board meeting called after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced earlier in the day that a special grand jury had indicted four individuals on Friday.

"I don't have a lot of answers. When the full board is here we will make more decisions," Bruzzese added.

DeWine announced McVey was named in a five-count indictment made public Monday, including one count of tampering with evidence and two counts of obstructing justice, both felonies. McVey also was indicted with two misdemeanors including one count of falsification and one count of obstructing official business.

The indictment claims McVey allegedly committed crimes starting on April 5, 2012.

The special grand jury also named Lynnett Gorman, the Pugliese West Elementary School principal, in a one- count misdemeanor indictment regarding reporting child abuse or neglect on April 12, 2012.

Seth Fluharty, a wrestling and conditioning coach and teacher at Garfield East Elementary School, was indicted on one misdemeanor count regarding reporting child abuse or neglect on Aug. 13, 2012.

The grand jury named former volunteer high school football coach Matthew Belardine on four misdemeanor counts including allowing an underage person to consume beer or liquor, obstructing official business, falsification and contributing to the unruliness or delinquency of a child.

All four are scheduled to make an initial court appearance in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court on Dec. 6.

DeWine said summons were delivered to all four people Monday morning.

The attorney general declined to discuss details of the indictments.

"Some may ask why others were not indicted. The grand jury must have probable cause to believe that all of the elements of a criminal offense are present before an indictment can be returned. It is simply not sufficient that a person's behavior was reprehensible, disgusting, mean-spirited or just plain stupid," DeWine said during his hour-long press conference.

DeWine said the grand jury that started meeting in April heard testimony from 123 individuals and reviewed evidence gathered by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation during 18 separate days.

"The special grand jury is comprised of citizens of Jefferson County who are a reflection of Steubenville and the people of this community. They have worked hard and have sacrificed a great deal to take on this important task. This was tough work. It took a long time to get all of the information needed to make their decisions. But barring any new evidence I believe their work is done," continued DeWine.

The grand jury had issued indictments in October against William Rhinaman, the former director of technology for the Steubenville City School District, and his daughter, Hannah Rhinaman, who worked for the school district for approximately one month last year.

William Rhinaman was arrested on Oct. 7 and later entered a not guilty plea to charges including tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, obstructing official business and perjury.

Hannah Rhinaman was indicted by the special grand jury on Oct. 23 on two counts of receiving stolen property and one count of theft allegedly related to the time she worked as a contract employee for the Steubenville City School District.

"She took property from the school district and sold it," said DeWine during a telephone interview last month.

Hannah Rhinaman also entered a not guilty plea during her arraignment.

DeWine said the indictment against Hannah Rhinaman was not related to the charges against her father.

Both Rhinamans are scheduled for a Dec. 9 pre-trial hearing before visiting Summit County retired Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove.

Cosgrove was appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to oversee the special grand jury investigating the Steubenville rape case.

William Rhinaman retired from the city school district effective Nov. 1.

Two Steubenville High School students, Ma'Lik Richmond and Trent Mays, were convicted in March in connection with the August 2012 rape of a Weirton teenage girl following a series of alcohol-fueled parties. Mays also was found delinquent of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material for having a picture of the 16-year-old victim in an outgoing text message on his cell phone.

Richmond and Mays are serving sentences in Ohio Department of Youth Services facilities.

The case also sparked a social media firestorm that saw the group Anonymous hold rallies on the steps of the Jefferson County Courthouse demanding justice for the rape victim.

"The grand jury has made its decisions and has demanded accountability. This community has been torn apart by the actions and the bad decisions of the few. There are a lot of fine young people who participate in athletics and other activities in the Steubenville schools. None of them did anything wrong. They don't deserve to be lumped in with those few. Yet these kids have been maligned and disrespected. It is unfair and it needs to stop. These are good people with good schools and good kids and good teachers and good coaches. What happened here can and does happen anywhere in the nation," stated DeWine.

"What happened here is not unique to Steubenville. We have a societal problem. This began as a rape of a 16-year-old girl. But it also represents blurred and distorted boundaries of what is right or wrong. It is also as much about the parents, the grown-ups and the adults. How do you hold the kids accountable if you don't hold the adults accountable," remarked DeWine.

"People made bad choices and the grand jury said there are repercussions. There are consequences and there has to be accountability. This community has suffered. I feel for the citizens and what they have endured. I know they need to put this matter behind them. I have always known this to be a great community and a resilient community. It is time to let Steubenville move on," declared DeWine.

(Gossett can be contacted at dgossett@heraldstaronline.com)

 
 

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