June 27, 2016

Mostly cloudy

PR consultant suing Medina superintendent

Medina school board members weren’t the only ones looking for professional help to handle the public relations nightmare sparked last month by the new contract for Superintendent Randy Stepp.

On March 6, the school board hired Cleveland-based Hennes Paynter at a cost of $20,370 for two weeks of consulting. The board parted ways with the firm March 21.

Randy Stepp

David Eden, a Beachwood public relations consultant, said he was hired by Stepp March 27.

Eden is seeking payment of $5,000, plus interest and court costs, in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Medina County Common Pleas Court.

“Mr. Stepp engaged him to provide crisis communication and public relations counsel regarding his relationship with the board of education,” said Eden’s attorney, Robert Rosenfeld.

Reached for comment Wednesday night, Stepp said no payment was made because Eden failed to provide a requested “itemized statement of the services rendered.”

Stepp said he has not yet seen the lawsuit and that a fuller statement would be available from his attorney today.

Eden’s company, Eden Communications, is a consulting firm specializing in strategic public relations consulting, crisis communications and editorial services.

According to Eden’s suit, Stepp entered into an oral contract with him on March 27 — the same day Medina school board President Charles Freeman resigned.

Rosenfeld said Stepp has been using Eden’s material in his communications with the public.

“He used information and material supplied by Mr. Eden and hasn’t paid him,” he said.

On April 4, Stepp sent an email to parents and staff clarifying his position on his new contract, which included an $83,000 retention bonus and payments for his previous student loan debt and tuition expenses.

On April 8, the board announced Stepp would be placed on paid leave, pending completion of a special state audit of his use of the district’s carryover fund held at the Medina County Schools’ Educational Service Center. The fund was used to pay more than a quarter-million dollars worth of his educational expenses.

Stepp again responded with an email to parents and community members, stating the payments were all authorized by his contracts, which the school board unanimously approved.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

Loren Genson About Loren Genson

Loren Genson was The Gazette's senior reporter. From August 2012 through September 2015, she covered Brunswick city and state and national government. To contact The Gazette, call the managing editor at (330) 721-4065.