Whitehall News

Howards resign from board without notice

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Whitehall Board of Education member Brandon Howard and his mother, board vice president Ronda Howard, resigned from their positions effective immediately Feb. 28.

The district received their letters sometime on Thursday. The remaining three school board members were expected to meet in special session March 4 at the district's administrative offices to officially accept the resignations. The board also is expected to name a new board vice president.

Board president Walter Armes said he was surprised to hear of the Howards' joint departure.

"I was not expecting it," he said after learning of the news.

Neither Brandon nor Ronda Howard could be reached for comment.

ThisWeek has received letters from residents and some anonymous sources, calling for Brandon Howard's resignation. Social-media outlets, like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, also featured numerous posts about him.

In his letter, Brandon Howard did not mention any specific reason for stepping down but alluded to a recent controversy over a weapons charge stemming from a summertime incident.

"I feel that it is in the best interest for me to resign for the well-being of my family," he said in the letter.

Howard has served on the board for a little more than two years. The seat became available in 2010, when former board member Carolyn McIntosh stepped down for personal reasons. That seat is up for election again in November.

Howard's mother, Ronda, has been a school board member since 2004. Though her letter contained many messages of thanks, it gave no reason for her departure.

"Please accept my letter of resignation effective immediately from the position of an elected official with the Whitehall City School Board of Education," she said in her letter. She went on to recognize everyone, from the superintendent to board members and staff (past and present).

"These parents, students and community members are the reason I continued to strive for what I believe were the best opportunities for our children," she said.

Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy thanked them for their service.

"The district appreciates the service that both Ronda and Brandon have provided on the Whitehall City School Board, and we certainly wish them the best in all future endeavors," she said.

Controversy first began to stir around Brandon Howard following a gun incident during National Night Out festivities in August 2012.

A Franklin County grand jury indicted Howard on Sept. 28 with carrying a concealed weapon. The charge was a fourth-degree felony, which carried a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

During the incident, Howard was accused of carrying a loaded firearm during Whitehall's National Night Out celebration at John Bishop Park on Aug. 7. He claimed he had a permit but could not locate it in his car. He was not arrested but was told to produce the documentation within the next two days.

On Aug. 9, Whitehall police detained Howard during a traffic stop. He told police his employer mistakenly had informed him he had a permit to carry a firearm so he could not produce the proper documentation. According to the report, Howard told police he was a "victim of relying on what his boss told him" and would no longer carry a gun.

The weapon was confiscated.

Prosecutors say they are not certain it was the same firearm. The one turned over to police two days after the incident, though, was deemed inoperable.

Howard's clean record and the inability to prove that the gun he had been carrying Aug. 7 was operable played a large part in the final charges.

Howard pleaded guilty in Franklin County Common Pleas Court on Feb. 4 to a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon. He received no jail time but was ordered to pay a $300 fine and court costs.

Brandon Howard read a brief apology during the school board's regular monthly meeting Feb. 14.

According to Armes, the district has 30 days from the Howards' Feb. 28 resignations to fill the two vacant positions. Conversely, Armes said, the district is not allowed to fill the positions within the first 10 days after the resignations.

The three remaining board members will interview candidates for the position this month. They must agree on two choices or the case will land in the hands of a probate judge.

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