The contentious debate over a proposed West Franklin bond issue that would consolidate the school district into a single campus in Pomona apparently has taken a volatile turn.
West Franklin school board president Thayne Bush, citing a threat made against his life, has filed a petition asking for protection from stalking against district patron Henry Snodgrass, who he said confronted him after two public meetings March 27 and March 28 to discuss the bond issue.
The Herald typically does not print victims’ names, except when the reported incident involves a public official and/or a public place.
Snodgrass has been a vocal opponent of the proposed bond issue that will be decided by district patrons in a June 4 election. If approved, the bonds would help finance an estimated $16-million project to improve West Franklin’s middle and high schools and provide a centralized campus for all district schools.
In the board president’s petition, filed March 29 in Franklin County District Court, Bush asserts that after a March 27 school board candidate forum in the West Franklin High School commons area Snodgrass “poked” him in the chest and started criticizing how the school district was spending its money. Bush said Snodgrass started using vulgar language about West Franklin Superintendent Dotson Bradbury. Bush said when he told Snodgrass he didn’t want to listen to that kind of language, Snodgrass continued to curse at him until a uniformed security officer stepped in and escorted Snodgrass out of the building.
On the following evening, after a school board candidate gathering in the Williamsburg Community Building, Bush said he and his wife were talking with a group of people when Snodgrass confronted him again.
“[Snodgrass] poked me in the chest and said, ‘Where is your sheriff officer now? I might just kill you,’” Bush said, according to the court document.
Bush said he and his wife were “shaken” by Snodgrass’ threat and left the building as quickly as possible. He said they were escorted to their vehicle by a plain-clothes reserve officer. Bush said he reported the incident to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office the same evening, the court document said.
That night, sheriff’s officers responded to Williamsburg about 9 p.m. and interviewed Snodgrass about the alleged altercation with Bush, Jeff Richards, Franklin County sheriff, confirmed Friday. No charges have been filed, he said.
Judge Kevin Kimball issued a temporary protection from stalking order against Snodgrass March 29 until the matter could be heard in court. The case is set to go before Kimball at 2 p.m. May 6 in Franklin County District Court, 301 S. Main St., Ottawa.
On his petition seeking protection, Bush wrote: “I do not feel safe in his [Sondgrass’] presence and knowing that he carries a weapon makes me more uneasy. I feel he is a threat to my family and my fellow board members.”
Bush declined comment Friday about the petition or the alleged altercations. Bush said he plans to talk with an attorney before the May 6 hearing. Snodgrass did not respond to a request for an interview.
The bond issue has sparked debates throughout the district, including a war of words on Facebook between district patrons on both sides, as well as a dispute over campaign signs in Pomona.
In the April 2 election, voters swept Bush and three other school board incumbents out of office. They will retain their board seats until the first meeting of the new school year in July. Regardless of its makeup, the school board cannot stop the June 4 vote on the $14.3-million bond issue, Bradbury said previously.
Bush expressed disappointment in losing the race the day after the election, noting that he opted not to campaign but rather stand by his voting record.
“It looked like it turned into a one-issue campaign ... But that’s what the people wanted,” Bush said, referring to West Franklin’s bond issue. “There is a lot more that goes on than just one item and most of the newly elected said in the forum that [the bond issue] was the reason they were there. ... I felt all along that I didn’t want to close schools and raise taxes, but for the long-term that’s the best option. They may change their minds when they sit on the board and see what they’ve got themselves into.”
Abby Crosthwait, Herald staff writer, contributed to this report.