ELYRIA — Annie Carstarphen testified she’s been afraid and has had a hard time sleeping since fellow Lorain County Joint Vocational School board member Ayers Ratliff told one of her coworkers that Carstarphen should be shot.
The alleged threat took place last month at the Lorain County Auditor’s office, where Carstarphen is employeed. The following day, Carstarphen filed for a civil stalking protection order against Ratliff.
On Wednesday, a hearing on the matter was conducted before Magistrate Linda Butler.
While on the witness stand, Carstarphen said Ratliff has gotten angry during JVS meetings “when things weren’t going the way he wants.”
“He would yell, ‘You’re all going to pay for this! You all don’t know what you’re doing. I’m going to make you pay.’ There’s been several incidents when he said that to us (the JVS school board),” Carstarphen said. “I found it very threatening, as if he was going to actually harm us. When he came up and said I should be shot, I definitely feel like that’s how he’s going to make us pay.”
The alleged incident took place Oct. 15 when Ratliff had stopped at the auditor’s office to pick up some paperwork concerning the JVS. While there Ratliff spoke with Laurie Figueroa, an employee with the auditor’s office.
According to the witness statement filled out by Figueroa, while Ratliff was waiting at the counter for his documents, Carstarphen walked through the room. Ratliff told Figueroa that Carstarphen was on the JVS school board, to which Figueroa said she was aware of the fact, the statement said.
“He said, ‘I’m not a fan of her,’ and then, ‘I don’t know how she got on the board. She needs to be shot, but I won’t do it,’” Figueroa’s statement said.
Ratliff then told Figueroa that Carstarphen and Lorain County JVS Superintendent Glenn Faircloth are “very close.” Figueroa told Ratliff she “didn’t even know Mr. Faircloth,” the statement said. Ratliff then “motioned crossed fingers,” which Figueroa said in the statement she took to mean Faircloth and Carstarphen “were very close.”
Figueroa wrote that the situation made her feel “very uncomfortable.”
Ratliff has been at odds with other members of the JVS school board before. He has been a vocal opponent of the district’s proposed 0.75-mill permanent improvement levy that ultimately failed at the ballot Nov. 6, saying the district is seeking too much money and has sent letters to elected officials in opposition to the levy.
Earlier this year, the school board voted to censure Ratliff after accusing him of disrespecting his fellow board members, making racist remarks, making remarks to female staff members that could be seen as sexual harassment and relaying sensitive information from an executive session.
Last year, Ratliff was the only dissenting vote when the board voted to approve a new contract for Faircloth that included a raise in salary. Faircloth has told The Chronicle-Telegram he believes Ratliff, who is white, has a problem with him because he’s black.
On Wednesday, Ratliff’s attorney, his brother J.C. Ratliff, tried to get Carstarphen to say the board had censured Ayers Ratliff because he wanted to look into things at the JVS the board and administrators didn’t want brought to light. Carstarphen denied the allegations.
J.C. Ratliff asked his brother about his relationship with fellow JVS board members and if meetings got heated.
“They get heated, but I always act professional,” Ayers Ratliff said. “I’m asking questions and I feel that my decorum is acceptable for the fact that I’m trying to get answers to my questions.”
Ayers Ratliff also said he never has contact with Carstarphen and on the day of the alleged incident he “did not say anything about her. He also said he didn’t say anything “toward” or to her that day.
“I think I did say, ‘Hi Annie, how are you?’” he said later.
Ayers Ratliff has said the entire incident was a “total fabrication” by Figueroa and Carstarphen. He also said he didn’t know there’d been any issue or an alleged incident at the auditor’s office until the following day with a deputy from the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office called him about it.
Butler said she will issue a written ruling on the matter within the next day or two.
Chief photographer Bruce Bishop contributed to this story.
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