October 21, 2014

Medina
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51°F

Stepp inquiry should be expanded, board says

MEDINA — Medina City Schools have asked Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost to expand the examination of Superintendent Randy Stepp’s spending to include at least one month of his credit card bills.

The district originally asked for a special audit of Stepp’s spending from a district “carryover” fund held by the Medina County Educational Service Center.

The board placed Stepp on paid administrative leave April 8 pending the outcome of the audit, which is expected at the end of this month.

The amended agreement with the state auditor approved unanimously by the board on Monday calls for a review of transactions included in the district’s December 2007 American Express credit card statement.

District Treasurer Jim Hudson said he could not say why the school board requested the expansion of the audit because the audit is ongoing.

“They are just expanding their scope a little bit to include some transactions at Medina City Schools,” Hudson said during Monday’s meeting, when the board approved the change.

The amended agreement asks the auditors to examine the credit card expenditures to ensure they met the following requirements:

• Authorization for approval to pay per district’s policies or employment contract.

• Adequacy of supporting documentation.

• Proper public purpose.

• Proper fund/account coding in the district’s records.

• Exclusion from any amounts previously reimbursed or paid by the Educational Service Center.

Hudson also said he would be asking the auditor to review proposed changes to the district’s credit card policies.

Lawsuit

School board members did not comment on a federal lawsuit filed by Stepp on Friday, charging four board members and other district officials with breach of contract, defamation and invasion of privacy.

At the end of Monday’s meeting, the board went into executive session to discuss “pending court action.”

The school board did send out a press release earlier in the day stating that the board had not received any communication from the court or Stepp’s lawyers, but that they had obtained a copy of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit named school board President Karla Robinson and board members Susan Vlcek, Doug Adamczyk and William Grenfell; James Shields, the school district’s general counsel; and district Treasurer James Hudson.

The board members named all voted to rescind Stepp’s contract April 16, arguing it was not valid because the board had violated the state’s open meeting law by failing to properly publicize the Jan. 7 meeting where it was approved.

The board’s action followed a month of public furor over Stepp’s new contract, which provided him an $83,000 “retention” bonus, and subsequent publicity about earlier contracts that obligated the district to pay for Stepp’s old college loans and for a master’s of business administration. School board members later said they did not know the full cost of Stepp’s educational expenses, which totaled more than a quarter million dollars.

The lawsuit charges the board knew the full cost of the contract provisions but falsely claimed ignorance in a March press release.

The lawsuit asks the court to award “the amount of the full value of the 2013 contract,” estimated by the Medina City Teachers Association to be $1.2 million, along with other damages, including attorney’s fees, interest and court costs.

The suit, which asks for a jury trial, does not specify a specific dollar amount of damages.

Levy discussion

In other action Monday, interim Superintendent David Knight proposed that the board place a 5.9-mill, five-year emergency levy for operating funds on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Last month, the board pulled a planned 10-year, 5.9-mill levy from the May 7 special election ballot April 16, the same day it voted to rescind Stepp’s contract.

When asked why the change from 10 years to five years, Knight said the shorter time frame would show the community the money is being well-spent.

“We need to re-establish trust, prove ourselves,” he said. “… The downside is — we’ll be back on the ballot five years from now.”

If the levy is approved, Knight said busing would be brought back to a one-mile radius from all school buildings. Busing is now at the state minimum of two miles, and there is no high school busing. It would also provide funding for more school resource officers.

Knight said the levy would also bring back various programs and services that have been cut, including:

• A reading intervention teacher at each of the elementary buildings.

• Gifted services at the elementary schools.

• Increased counseling services at all the schools.

• More art, music and gym classes at the elementary level.

“It’s the arts that really foster the excitement and the motivation of wanting to be in school,” he said.

The levy resolution needs to be filed with Medina County Board of Elections by Aug. 7.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.