April 23, 2014

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.

  • Common Sense

    Why should he have to itemize his bill? You don’t. We just gave you 83k., pay the man.

  • Buffalo

    “Stepp said no payment was made because Eden failed to provide a requested ‘itemized statement of the services rendered.’u201d OK, Randy – how about the school district not paying YOU until you give an itemized statement of your services (what is it that you actually do, anyway)? Or, better yet, how about you don’t get paid until you give the public a complete and itemized statement of all the things we taxpayers have provided you with (you know – the Ipads, the college reimbursements, the trip to Florida for you and your family, etc.)? How about it? Put your money (actually, the TAXPAYERS money) where your mouth is!

  • Richard

    They need to investigate his personal bank accounts and tax records. Because someone like him has to be laundering money or something needing all this money. Fire him charge him get it over with then board resign then charge all of them even past. Then district can move on. Fully investigate Stepp and board.

  • Medina resident

    They have to itemize the bill if requested per O.R.C. No itemized bill – no obligation to pay. And they can’t collect through court without itemization – per FDCPA requirements. Even if Medina Common Pleas Court sides with consultants just because they are “a-a-a-angry” with Stepp, then Court of Appeals will overturn the decision. Only lawyers will be richer in the end.