Friday, February 4, 2011

Failed Lessons In The Williams-Bolar Case

Ever notice how the phrase "personal responsibility" has been sorely missing from those who would support giving Akron school mom Kelley Williams-Bolar a walk?

The list of supporters is pretty extensive, albeit not so much here at home where Akron and Copley-Fairlawn parents and citizens are no doubt suffering from reader's fatigue at this point.

But it is the story that won't go away, partly because these issues large and small run so deep and personal.

My friend Steve Hoffman of the Akron Beacon Journal -- and yes, I still consider him a friend even while I call out their editorials -- did the best job yet of laying out the big picture case. It's the second paragraph from Thursday's column I'm having a bit of trouble digesting:

"The first, learned the hard way by Williams-Bolar, the Copley-Fairlawn schools, Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh and Judge Patricia Cosgrove, is that the punishment (felony convictions) far outweighed the crime (tampering with documents)." - Akron Beacon Journal February 3, 2011

Steve's point is the lessons learned from this whole fiasco. Unfortunately, it highlights just how much further Williams-Bolar apologists need to go in learning their lessons.

Just to review -- again:
  • supporters think it wasn't "proportional" to charge Williams-Bolar with felony counts, apparently ignoring Ohio law that defines records tampering as a felony. There's no doubt she lied on records again and again. That's records tampering;
  • supporters think Prosecutor Bevan Walsh and Judge Cosgrove should have stepped in and ignored the state law and bumped the charges down to misdemeanors, apparently ignoring the willful, continued and tenacious refusal of Williams-Bolar to show even the slightest contrition for breaking the law;
  • even if a plea bargain deal had been arrived at -- and it didn't come up, sources tell me, until the week before the three-year old case went to trial -- let's remember it takes more than one to tango. Williams-Bolar still doesn't admit to wrongdoing, shows no remorse, and when pressed says she should be exonerated.
Copley-Fairlawn schools investigated, held hearings, presented Williams-Bolar with their evidence, sent multiple invoices for tuition, offered a payment plan most parents would have killed (as opposed to lying) for and spent the better part of three years trying to work out the issue as adults. Put an ear to the speaker and listen to the residency hearing for a taste of just what tenacity sounds like. It's not the schools; it is those who broke the law and wouldn't take individual responsibility for their actions.

Attorneys working for Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh didn't make up the felony records tampering charges; they were doing their job, following the law and the evidence you can see with your own eyes. It included an absolute decision from Juvenile Court Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio rejecting a petition for power of attorney request from Edward Williams. Note in the paperwork you can read for yourself: Williams used the petition as evidence in his exchanges with Copley-Fairlawn schools, even though it was never true.

Judge Cosgrove, who along with Prosecutor Bevan Walsh has suffered the worst injustice to their reputations through this entire sordid affair, certainly showed far more compassion and respect for the defendant than Kelley Williams-Bolar showed for the justice system.

Critics say the sentence and felony charges weren't "proportional" to the crime.

Cosgrove could have sentenced Williams-Bolar to five years in prison; she didn't choose five, four, three, two or even one year. Cosgrove didn't sentence Williams-Bolar to six months, 90 days or even 30 days in prison. She sent an unrepentant and in-denial Williams-Bolar to the Summit County Jail for 10 days -- and even worked to let her out after nine days. She expressed the opinion she wished there had been a deal for a misdemeanor. The Judge might want to reconsider in light of continued revelations on the depth of the lies of this case.

There could have been an order requiring Williams-Bolar to pay at least some of the tuition benefits taken by fraudulent means from Copley-Fairlawn schools, yet not one dime of restitution was ordered. Probation of two years will cost the State of Ohio far more to administer than the inconvenience to Williams-Bolar.

The Williams family should thank God they had Cosgrove hearing the case.

Much has been made of the felony convictions now part of Williams-Bolar's record. She earned them. A jury found her guilty, and voted 11-1 to convict her of theft. Could these have been dealt down to misdemeanors? We won't know because one of the first steps of a plea deal -- admitting guilt to something, anything, was not part of the strategy Williams-Bolar has followed since Day One. Admission and apology are part of a plea deal.

Much has been made of the felonies prohibiting her from working as a teacher, yet the law doesn't prohibit her from working. It's Akron's policy regarding teachers with a felony, and in point of fact the Akron Public Schools will welcome Williams-Bolar back to the fold without even a hearing.

I'm not one of those who think she shouldn't be hired back. To the contrary, I don't believe this crime -- even as a felony -- warrants dismissal. That would be too severe, but not even a personnel hearing? It is disturbing the Akron school administration ignores its own policies regarding employees with felony convictions. Talk about lessons learned; will that outlook still hold true for the next APS worker in a jam? Is the lesson to teachers, students and workers to deny everything? Is cherry picking discipline really the lesson you want to send the children?

We hear much about personal accountability, but in a case where it would have avoided so much heartbreak there has been none.

To the apologists, I'd appreciate your answer to these questions:
  • do you really think this case would have gone this far had Williams-Bolar not dug in her heels and piled lie upon lie atop a foundation of lies?
  • does it impact you in any way that Williams-Bolar still refuses to accept responsibility?
  • if you had been in the same shoes as Williams-Bolar, would you have taken responsibility?
Note I'm not asking how you feel about school choice, open v closed enrollment, equality in education, or school funding. This case isn't about any of those issues. Williams-Bolar says it wasn't about quality of education, it was about finding a safer place for her kids when they weren't in school.

The lesson plan is: what would you do?

1 comment:

  1. @Mr. Esposito, please respond:
    You said "I'm not one of those who think she shouldn't be hired back. To the contrary, I don't believe this crime -- even as a felony -- warrants dismissal."
    As you said, she has admitted NO culpability or self-responsibility in this matter, despite the overwhelming evidence. Do you not believe that her personal practices could carry over into her professional life? Teachers are role-models and children are taught to look up to them. A person's personal beliefs and ethics are what makes that person's character and guides how they act and react to the world around them. Felonies are handed out like candy these days. I believe it would be more appropriate to charge her with a misdemeanor and make her pay $30,000 restitution to Copley. But I still would not want someone with her beliefs and character to be a role-model for my child.