ELYRIA — A magistrate with Lorain County Common Pleas Court dismissed a petition by a member of the Lorain County Joint Vocational School board for a civil stalking protection order against fellow board member Ayers Ratliff.
Magistrate Linda Butler issued the written ruling Thursday morning, the day after a hearing on the matter was held before her in the courtroom.
Annie Carstarphen, who serves on the JVS school board and is a member of the Elyria school board, had filed for the protection order against Ratliff after Ratliff allegedly told another woman that Carstarphen “should be shot.”
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 Lorain County Auditor’s Office.
According to the witness statement filled out by Figueroa, while Ratliff was waiting at the counter for his documents, Carstarphen, who is an employee in the auditor’s office, 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.
In her ruling Butler said the burden of proof necessary for the protection order had not been met.
“The statement that ‘someone needs to be shot’ should certainly make one aware that their statement may be taken as a threat of harm and is likely to cause someone to believe they would be harmed,” the ruling said. “As a single incident, however that crossed this line, the magistrate finds that a pattern of menacing conduct directed at Petitioner Carstarphen has not been proved.”
Ratliff released a statement on the matter after the ruling.
“It is unfortunate that Ms. Carstarphen would lower herself to fabricating stories and signing her name to disingenuous affidavits in an attempt to use our judicial system to try and further her political causes and aspirations,” Ratliff said. “I am pleased that the Court has seen through the malicious and untruthfulness of Ms. Carstarphen.”
However, Butler didn’t say she felt Carstarphen had been untruthful.
“Unfortunately, we live in a world where gun violence is much too common,” the ruling said. “Our news is full of reports of shooting and random violence. While Ratliff denied making any statement about shooting anyone, this Court was given no reason to doubt the credibility of Ms. Figueroa’s testimony.”
Butler also said Ratliff’s actions have caused Carstarphen “mental distress.”
“However, the issue for the Court is whether Respondent knowingly engaged in a pattern of conduct with an awareness that his conduct would likely cause her to believe that he would physically harm her or cause her to become mentally distressed,” the ruling said.
The ruling also said Ratliff’s behavior was “disrespectful, hostile, intemperate, derogatory and insensitive.”
The ruling also said Ratliff “should now be fully aware that any such continued conduct directed toward Petitioner Carstarphen will likely be deemed by the Court to establish such a pattern.”
Carstarphen said the decision may cause her to step away from serving on the JVS school board.
“I am very, very disappointed. I’m sad. I can’t believe that was the outcome,” she said. “I was really hoping for a different outcome. It makes me question if I’m going to be able to continue serving on that board. I really enjoy being the representative from Elyria Schools on the JVS, but it makes me have to reevaluate the situation.”