July 24, 2016

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Defendants respond to Randy Stepp legal suit

Medina school officials being sued by Superintendent Randy Stepp have filed their response in federal court denying Stepp’s allegations and countersuing him.

Named in the suit are the Medina City School District, along with school board President Karla Robinson and board members Susan Vlcek, Doug Adamczyk and William Grenfell, who are being sued individually.

Randy Stepp

Treasurer Jim Hudson and Jim Shields, the district’s human resources director and legal counsel, also are named as defendants in the suit.

Stepp’s lawsuit seeks damages for breach of contract, as well as damage to Stepp’s reputation and standing in the community, humiliation, mental anguish and suffering, lost income and future earning capacity, according to a news release from Stepp’s attorneys, David Drechsler and Michael J. Matasich of the Akron law firm of Buckingham, Doolittle and Burroughs.

In his response to the lawsuit, filed July 8, Shields requests the case against him be dismissed and asks that Stepp be ordered to pay court costs and attorney fees.

The response denying the allegations filed by the other officials, on July 2, also states that the district is countersuing Stepp, demanding payment of court costs, along with repayment of an $83,000 signing bonus included in his Jan. 7 contract and other damages to be determined.

Stepp filed his suit May 17 in U.S. District Court, in Akron, six weeks after he was placed on paid leave pending completion of a state audit of his use of a district “carryover fund” held by the Medina County Schools’ Educational Service Center and a month after the school board voted to rescind his contract.

The board argued the contract was invalid because the Jan. 7 meeting where it was approved wasn’t properly publicized, as required by Ohio’s Sunshine Laws.

The board’s approval of the contract sparked a public outcry over provisions in the new pact, which included the $83,000 signing bonus, and more than a quarter-million dollars in educational payments authorized by earlier contracts.

In his lawsuit, Stepp asserts board members and employees were aware of the education payments, but falsely stated in a March 22 news release that they were unaware of the full costs, which included more than $172,000 for loans for old college degrees from Ashland University and more than $94,000 for a master’s in business administration from Case Western Reserve University, awarded in 2012.

In the March release, school board members said they did not know his education costs totaled more than a quarter-million dollars because the loans and tuition were paid through the district’s “carryover fund” maintained by the educational service center.

The responses filed with the U.S. District Court Northern District of Ohio show Bricker & Eckler, a law firm with offices in Cleveland, is representing the four school board members named in the suit and Hudson. However, a Cleveland law firm, Walter Haverfield, is representing Shields.

Bricker & Eckler filed their response on July 2 and Walter Haverfield filed its response Monday.

The two law firms were appointed by the district’s insurance company, Shields said.

Shields said he did not know why he was assigned a different attorney, who could not be reached for comment.

Robinson told The Gazette she and the other board members consulted with Bricker & Eckler before rescinding Stepp’s contract in April.

Bricker & Eckler have offices in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. Warren Rosman and John Kluznik are named as the attorneys representing the board members, Hudson and the district.

Rosman specializes in employment and government liability law and Kluznik specializes in employment and intellectual property law.

Jonathan Greenberg is the attorney representing Shields. According to Walter Haverfield, he was named an Ohio Super Lawyer in employment and labor law, litigation services and business litigation by Law and Politics magazine.

Jon Burkhart, the district’s business director, said the insurance company will pay all legal expenses except for a $5,000 deductible.

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.

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