Opioid Overdose Spurs Ohio School Board Member to Resign

by | January 23, 2018

By Theresa Cottom

Akron Public Schools board member John Otterman, who overdosed last week and was administered four doses of an opiate overdose reversal drug, resigned Monday after a long-documented history with illicit drugs.

Otterman submitted a letter of resignation to the board, which members unanimously voted to accept during Monday's regular board meeting.

"It has been an honor to serve the citizens of Akron on the School Board and the excellent staff and members that remain. This will allow the citizens of Akron and board members to appoint to [sic] a new member that will help facilitate positive growth for the children of the City of Akron," Otterman wrote in the brief letter. "Also, this will allow myself to regain my physical health that has caused me to miss valuable time working with the other members."

He has not attended a board meeting since Nov. 6.

Last Thursday, Akron police found Otterman, 57, unconscious in the driver's seat of a car on East Cuyahoga Falls Avenue. Paramedics treated Otterman at the scene, administering four doses of naloxone, which reverses opiate overdoses, before transporting him to Akron City Hospital for further treatment.

In an incident report, police said they found a white substance that tested positive for fentanyl, an opioid used as a pain medication, in the car along with marijuana.

According to police, Otterman admitted to having the drugs. He faces charges for the marijuana and was issued an immunity form in lieu of arrest for possessing fentanyl.

Ohio's Good Samaritan Law offers immunity to people who overdose up to two times and want to seek assistance for their addiction.

Otterman could not be reached for comment Monday.

He was elected to the Akron school board in 2015. In his time on the board, Otterman proposed each Akron school have naloxone on hand for emergency use, which the board approved in July.

Otterman has repeatedly mentioned medical issues he's dealing with, including chronic neck and back pain from football injuries.

He also has illicit drug use issues that date back decades.

In 1989, he was acquitted on charges of trafficking in marijuana at the end of a 10-month undercover investigation by the Summit County Sheriff's Office at Loral Defense Systems.

In 2001, Otterman, who was a city councilman at the time, was arrested and charged with five felony drug charges for lying to a doctor for painkillers. He was acquitted in that case, too, and the charges were dropped.

He was publicly reprimanded and censored by the board in August after police discovered him in his car in June with "slurred speech and glazed over eyes," along with an unmarked prescription bottle containing Xanax pills. The board didn't find out about the incident until two months after it occurred.

The June incident was the first drug violation to appear on his record.

The board has said it's been limited in what actions it can take against Otterman because he's an elected official.

"He doesn't work for me, he doesn't work for board members, he doesn't work for the superintendent," Board President Patrick Bravo said Monday. "He works for the people of Akron."

Had Otterman chosen not to resign, Bravo said the board would have looked into the few actions it could have taken, including encouraging him to resign or attempting to remove him from office, which requires thousands of voter signatures and a trial in court.

"[The resignation] is something I personally felt was in the best interest of the board and of Mr. Otterman," Bravo said. "We have compassion ... and we wanted to be able to work with him on this."

The board now has 30 days to fill the vacant seat.

Bravo said the board will hold a special meeting this weekend to determine the best way to do so. Options include appointing people who have never served, appointing previous board members or opening it up as an application process.

The person who fills the vacancy will serve the remainder of Otterman's term, which is until 2019.

"Otterman has some personal issues he needs to deal with, and we wish him luck on that journey," said Superintendent David James. "Addiction is very difficult. We just hope he gets the help he needs."

(c)2018 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)