By Erick Johnson, Gary Crusader
A court date has been set for a judge to decide whether to keep an order of protection in force that was obtained by Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt against School Board Trustee Carlos Tolliver. Tolliver is accused of stalking the Gary Community School Corporation (GCSC) superintendent.
Tolliver’s attorney, Darnail Lyles, said the hearing will be held at 11 a.m. on April 12 at the Lake Superior Court, 2293 N. Main Street in Crown Point. Judge John Pera will hear the case. Lyles will seek to have the order dismissed, which he says should have never been taken out.
Lyles said the date incensed his client who wanted a swift ending to the case, but instead got a date that’s two weeks later than the time scheduled for a judge to rule on Pruitt’s request.
A judge was scheduled to hear the case on March 27, but Lyles sought to move up the date so his client could attend school board meetings while Pruitt was present. Tolliver—an outspoken board member who some call a watchdog who speaks out against wasteful spending—has been unable to attend school board meetings because of the stay-away order.
As serious financial woes plague the GCSC, Lyles said he tried to get an earlier court date so his client can resume attending the meetings and suggest ways the district should cut costs to stay afloat. After several proposed court dates, Lyles ended up with an April 12 hearing—a later date and a different court location.
“Essentially what this is, is a prolonged effort to keep my client away from school board meetings. He’s mad as hell because he can’t go to school board meetings and be the watchdog that he was elected to be,” Lyles said.
In court documents, Pruitt said Tolliver made verbal attacks against her, but did not list any details. In another alleged incident at the Gary Area Career Center, Pruitt said Tolliver told her “All bets are off…I am going to get you.”
Lyles said the order of protection should be released because Pruitt’s claims aren’t covered under an Indiana statute. He went on to say that his client’s message was constitutionally-protected free speech that accurately describes GCSC’s troubles.
Gary schools face a serious crisis as dwindling enrollment and eroding property taxes threaten the future of nearly 6,000 students.
Despite closing schools, staff layoffs and slashed budgets, the GCSC is $101 million in debt. Indiana lawmakers are reviewing a bill that will allow the state to take financial control of the Gary school district.
Tolliver is one of two board members who have clashed with Pruitt on several recent proposals. One proposal involved local attorney, Clorius Lay, whom Pruitt wanted to hire as a part-time consultant for $50,000 a year despite the district financial problems. Many agreed with Tolliver that the proposed hire was a bad idea and that the funds could be put to better use.