A hearing on a petition filed by members of the Panther Valley school board against one of its members was continued yesterday after the presiding judge ruled a potential conflict-of-interest exists for the attorney representing the board.
Judge Joseph J. Matika said the potential conflict exists for Attorney Robert T. Yurchak, who is the board's solicitor and who filed the petition against board member R. Mickey Angst.
At the start of the hearing Matika said he met with Yurchak and Angst in his chambers prior to the scheduled start of the hearing to voice his concerns about several matters of possible conflict.
He said the concern about Yurchak is based on the fact the petition filed against Angst wants the court to bar him from executive sessions and from receiving any confidential school district material or disclosing any confidential material regardless of how he obtains it.
Matika said he believes the decisions made on what material is determined to be confidential or what material is determined to be privileged is made at the executive sessions which Yurchak attends at the district solicitor.
He said based on that it can be assumed that Yurchak would be called as a witness concerning these decisions. He also said in the meeting in chambers with Yurchak and Angst, the latter indicated he would be calling Yurchak as a witness. Matika also added that he, as the presiding judge, would have questions for Yurchak concerning what goes on at the executive sessions.
Matika said Yurchak can't "wear two hats." He said he can't represent the board members filing the action at the hearing and also be a witness for himself or for Angst.
Matika also said he discussed with Angst another matter of possible conflict. He said he told Angst that he had a personal relationship with some of the members of the school board and wanted to know if Angst felt that was a conflict.
He said Angst indicated in his chambers, and confirmed in open court, that he did not have a problem with Matika hearing the case.
However, Angst did indicate in chambers and in open court he did not object to Yurchak continuing as legal representative for the board and testifying as a witness. He said, "I don't care how many hats he wears."
Matika dismiss his objections, stating it was a real concern for the court.
Matika then gave Yurchak and the petitioning board members four weeks to secure a new attorney to represent them in the matter. He said he would schedule a hearing on the petition near the end of October.
Angst again objected and asked what happens in the meantime. Matika said everything would remain as it is until he hears the matter and he can't intervene now because he has not heard any evidence.
In its petition, the board claims Angst has repeatedly violated board policy and his oath of office in disclosing sensitive matters discussed at the executive meetings. The court filing lists several matters which the board claimed Angst released to the public that was confidential.