YOUNGSTOWN — Former Canfield Schools Superintendent Alex Geordan has filed objections to a Mahoning County magistrate’s May 9 ruling that statements by Canfield Police Chief Charles Colucci made in 2019 about Geordan were supported by the results of a sheriff’s investigation and were not false or malicious.
Geordan filed objections Monday to Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Magistrate James Melone’s ruling in which Melone said Geordan’s civil suit should be dismissed without a trial.
Geordan is appealing Melone’s decision to Judge Anthony D’Apolito of the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, where Melone works.
Melone ruled that Colucci made specific statements to the public in November 2019 regarding the results of an investigation by the sheriff’s office into a Sept. 12, 2019, incident involving a student. Colucci asked the sheriff’s office to investigate the incident.
“There is no evidence that Chief Colucci issued the public statement ‘knowing that (the statement) was false or with reckless disregard as to whether or not it was false,'” Melone’s ruling states.
The decision added that Geordan “has presented no evidence establishing that the statements were untrue, let alone meeting the required threshold of proof of ‘actual malice’.” The ruling said it is “reasonable” for Colucci, in his role as Chief Constable Canfield, “to inform the public of the outcome of the investigation. Transparency in an investigation such as this is paramount to maintaining public trust.
Geordan resigned as superintendent in December 2019 following criticism of his handling of these issues. He filed his lawsuit against Colucci in 2020.
The conflict between Geordan and Colucci came to a head in November 2019, when Colucci released a document detailing 22 incidents dating back to 2012 to support claims that the school administration “has a history of not reporting serious threats and ‘other significant incidents to the law’. enforcement.”
The document mentioned a November 17, 2018 incident in which a confidential source advised (a Canfield Police Department school resources officer) that a note had been discovered at the college saying, “I want to kill my math teacher” . The student was suspended from school and the (school resource officer) was never notified,” the report said.
He also said Geordan “played down” a Sept. 12, 2019, incident involving a sixth-grader who threatened to shoot another boy in the back of the neck 16 times. The report also documented an investigation by the police department and the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office regarding the September 12 incident.
One finding of the document was that Geordan had “misled the community” three times in a general message to parents about the September 12 incident and that Canfield Village Middle School Vice-Principal Mike Flood had given changing versions of the incident to investigators.
Geordan’s objection to Melone’s decision says Geordan filed an affidavit in the litigation that ‘challenges the veracity of Colucci’s defamatory statement (about Geordan) and shows that Colucci acted with a’ actual malice”.
The filing, filed by attorney David Engler, states that “Since the magistrate did not address the facts on which Geordan swore in his affidavit, the magistrate did not consider the inferences that could reasonably be drawn from these facts”.
Geordan’s filing asks D’Apolito to “review the entire case in the light most favorable to Geordan, then reverse the magistrate’s decision” to dismiss Geordan’s lawsuit and instead “to prepare this case for a full trial on the merits of Geordan’s defamation action.”