School Bd. Responds to Superintendent Lawsuit

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MEDINA, Ohio-- Members of the Medina City School Board were expected to meet with their legal counsel on Monday to discuss details of a federal lawsuit filed against the board as a whole and several board members individually by Superintendent Randy Stepp.

Stepp was placed on administrative leave on April 8 after the board contacted the Auditor of State to conduct an investigation over how some of the district's money was being spent.

Eight days later, the board rescinded his contract which Stepp claims, in his suit, that the board members unanimously approved in January.

Stepp is suing for defamation and for breech of contract.

His suit also individually names Board President Karla Robinson, Board Members Susan Vlcek, Doug Adamczyk, and William Grenfell as well as the district's Legal Counsel James Shields and District Treasurer James Hudson.

In his suit, Stepp accuses the board of making him the scapegoat over a public outcry over the district's finances.

His lawyers declined comment on Monday, but in the suit they claim the board members "engaged in a series of actions designed to alleviate the pressure on them; to salvage their own reputations and public positions; to redirect the pressure and backlash toward Stepp and ultimately to remove Stepp from his position as superintendent."

After he was placed on administrative leave April 8, Stepp said everything he did regarding money that was spent from a Educational Service Center fund was done with the knowledge and approval of the district, and that the benefits were woven into his contracts that were approved by the board.

"They knew very well when we have negotiated contracts. I have shared with them everything that was going into those contracts; presented everything to them in advance so they would have time to do research and ask any questions," Stepp told FOX 8 at his home on April 8.

In his suit, Stepp says the board members "continued to praise Stepp's work in the Medina City School District through 2012," and that even as he was re-negotiating terms of a new contract in January 2013 he continued to have the unanimous support of the board.

"The public discontent was fueled by, among other things, the teacher's union, a segment of activist community members and the local news which inaccurately reported the facts surrounding the 2013 contract," says Stepp in his suit, adding "Initially, the Board of Education members at the time stood united, extolled the accomplishments of Medina City School District under Stepp, and defended the 2013 contract."

"I've not done anything wrong. I'm not going to resign. I negotiated a fair contract with the board and what the board did or didn't do on their end I have no idea," said Stepp in April.

His suit claims the action of the board "has directly caused injury to Stepp, including, but not limited to, lost income, lost earning capacity, reputational damage, damage to his standing in the community, humiliation, mental anguish and suffering and other money damages and special damages."

Reached by telephone on Monday, Robinson declined comment on the suit.

The Medina City School Board later released the following written statement:

"The Medina City Board of Education has obtained a copy of a legal complaint filed by Superintendent Randolph Stepp in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. No communication has been received from the Court or legal counsel for Mr. Stepp relating to the complaint, so the official filing date has not yet been confirmed."

The complaint names as defendants the Medina Board of Education as a legal entity, four individual Board members, the Director of Human Resources, and the Treasurer. The complaint seeks damages, attorney fees, and costs for a variety of claimed injuries arising out of Mr. Stepp’s employment in the district.

The Board of Education is currently reviewing the court complaint with its legal counsel, and is not in a position to comment specifically on the legal allegations that have been made.

The Board does, however, want the community to know that it will continue to take all lawful and necessary actions to establish transparency and appropriate fiscal controls in all its operations. It is anticipated that more information and guidance on these issues will become available as a result of the special audit which has been requested by the Board and is currently underway in the office of the State Auditor.

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