Scott Hamilton, the Canton Local School Board President, has resigned from his position as school board president.
Last week, Hamilton agreed to a plea deal to avoid a felony theft conviction. He was charged in May for stealing 166 bales of pine shavings from Massillon’s Tractor Supply Company location on Erie Street between January and May this year.
“I did not knowingly or intentionally steal from TSC or anyone else. As my lawyer stated, the accusation was a complete misunderstanding,” Hamilton said at the start of the special meeting Tuesday night.
Hamilton pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of theft. Massillon Municipal Court Judge Edward Elum found him guilty and ordered Hamilton to pay $1,031 in restitution to Tractor Supply Company, court fees, complete 40 hours of community service and not shop at TSC stores.
After Hamilton was found guilty of theft last Wednesday, his attorney Dan Funk released the following statement:
“Scott wanted to expeditiously resolve this matter rather than dragging it out. He felt this would unduly [affect] Canton South Schools, his [family,] and Tractor Supply. Thus, he agreed to enter a no contest plea. Unfortunately, the court found him guilty. In response, he immediately paid the amount in dispute due to the misunderstanding of his purchases at Tractor Supply. Scott is extremely remorseful for this entire situation and looks forward to moving past this.”
In the days after Hamilton’s conviction, fellow Board Members Chris Cole and Tom Kovesci called a special school board meeting to discuss the conduct of Hamilton.
Hamilton opened the special meeting by saying in part, “I am deeply sorry for the impact this situation has had on my family, friends, Canton Local family, and the Canton Local community. I also want to apologize to the employees at TSC for my role in this misunderstanding.”
He then announced his resignation as board president.
“In order to reduce distraction and focus on the upcoming school year, I am stepping down as president of the Canton Local Board of Education effective immediately,” Hamilton said. “It has been absolutely a privilege to serve as president on this board and I know we are in great hands with Mr. Knight stepping into this very important leadership role. I do intend to remain as a member of the Canton Local Board of Education to continue my focus on the students and well-being of our outstanding school district.”
Hamilton will remain as a member of the school board. Rick Knight will assume the role as president.
Following Hamilton’s resignation as board president, the Board voted 3-2 to censure Hamilton.
The censuring of Hamilton includes the following: 1. he does not speak at any school sponsored or public event, other than official board meetings, in his role or as a representative of the board of education – such events include, but are not limited to convocations or graduation; 2. Hamilton shall will no longer be able to serve as the announcer for any school sporting or extracurricular event; 3. Remove Hamilton from the selection process for induction into the athletic hall of fame; and 4. Hamilton shall not be recognized on any official school district social media posts in a singular capacity.
Chris Cole made the motion and Board members Cole, Thomas Kovesci and Knight voted in favor of censuring Hamilton, who, along with Annette Davis voted against the decision.
The Board voted 3-2 against allowing community members to address the board during the special meeting.
“It’s probably what was best, because I think there’d have been a lot of things said, which would have caused more fireworks, because they would have most likely not let a lot of what was going to be said be said,” said Dave Andrews, a concerned Canton Local citizen. “So they probably did everybody a favor in that regard. Now, I’m not happy about it at all. I think that the eight people that submitted requests to speak should have been allowed to speak in some form or fashion, but…overall, it was probably the right idea. I just don’t agree with it.”
A lot of people have asked the question, “why hasn’t the board just voted Hamilton off of the board.” Well, the answer to that is simple. The Board does not have the power to remove an elected Board member, but community members can begin the process by starting a petition.
According to www.ohioschoolboards.org, “the procedure that must be followed requires preparation of a complaint stating specific charges, which must be signed by a specified number of electors of the school district. The complaint then must be filed with the common pleas court, which conducts a hearing to determine whether the charges are true and whether removal is warranted.”
Community members have been calling for Hamilton to resign from his role on the school board since March, when he – along with Davis – voted against renewing the coaching contract of now-former head volleyball coach Erin Cole.
During the midst of board meetings following the vote to not renew Coach Cole’s contract, Hamilton cited his decision to vote against Cole was because he said he received harassment and bullying allegations against Coach Cole.
Andrews said he was delighted with Hamilton’s decision to step down as president.
“I kind of felt like that might be coming as a way to save face, and that was really his only option with the community, to try and say, ‘Look at what I’m doing!’ He’s like a magician. In one hand, all flash, and he’s picking your pocket in the other. That’s been going on here for a long time,” Andrews said.
Two men who said they grew up with Hamilton spoke with JMN after the special meeting and said everyone deserves a second chance.
“Scott has proven after 25 years of service, that what he has done for the community by far outshines what has happened today,” said Jack Jollif. “What I mean by that is, a misdemeanor that has been spoken, and he’s acknowledged it. He’s going to pay for it – not a problem. Aren’t we in education that we’re teaching the kids everybody’s has second chances?”
Brad Clendenon called the decision to censure Hamilton a form of communism.
“Censorship, to me, is Communism. The [First] Amendment says you have the right to speak your mind. He’s being violated his First Amendment right,” he said as he defended his friend.
Clendenon believes there may have been something fishy happening that resulted in Hamilton’s theft charge.
“I’m a farmer. I have a farm year-round, and there’s been times I’ve had problems with Tractor Supply,” he said. “I’m not saying that’s an excuse for him…you go somewhere and you shoplift enough, and they don’t catch you for three, four months, where does the problem lie? I think there’s something else going on.”
Jollif said no matter the differences within the school board, he just hopes Canton Local is put first.
““I just really hope that at the end of the day, Canton Local is a school district that we all want and hope,” Jollif said. “This is one of the best school districts in the state of Ohio.”
The next Canton Local Board of Education meeting is scheduled for July 11.