April 23, 2014

Medina
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Stepp ordered to repay illegally spent money

Medina City Law Director Gregory Huber has told Superintendent Randy Stepp to repay $4,121 that a state audit found he illegally spent. But Huber declined to comment when asked if he was considering filing criminal charges.

In a letter dated Nov. 1, Huber asked Stepp to make arrangements to repay the money within 20 days or face a civil suit by his office on behalf of the district.

On Oct. 22, a special state audit of district funds included a “finding for recovery” for $4,121 that the examiners said Stepp spent illegally.

The money included a $1,023 mileage reimbursement for a trip to Florida with his family to attend a National School Board Association Conference. Other board members flew to the conference at a cost of $284.

The findings for recovery also included a $557 hotel stay for the night of April 2 with his family at the conference. The conference ended on April 1.

The audit also questioned $172,000 in district funds that Stepp used to pay off his student loans.

Stepp didn’t disclose the payoff on his 2012 W-2 form, and the state said they will file an addendum to the audit when they get more information from the U.S. Department of Education on specifics of the debt.

An amendment to Stepp’s 2011 contract included a provision that the board would cover past college expenses. But school board members have said they did not know the total amount of the debt or “that it applied to all degrees” — a claim disputed by Stepp in a federal lawsuit he filed against the board in May.

But district officials claim they didn’t know about the student loan payoff.

Huber said one of the reasons he couldn’t comment on possible criminal charges was because the auditor was awaiting information from the U.S. Department of Education.

“I can’t comment on that,” Huber said when asked about potential criminal charges. “The audit’s not complete. The audit that’s been done is a partial.”

Stepp’s attorneys David Drechsler and Mike Matasich said they had no comment on how or whether Stepp planned to repay the money.

School district treasurer Jim Hudson said he had not yet received anything from Stepp.

The school board asked for the state audit in April and placed Stepp on paid leave pending the outcome.

The board voted to begin the process to fire Stepp on Oct 24 — two days after the audit was released — and placed Stepp on unpaid suspension Oct. 28.

The board began questioning Stepp’s spending following community protests over Stepp’s new five-year contract, approved by the board Jan. 7, that included an $83,000 signing bonus.

After inquiries were made into Stepp’s fringe benefits by union members and residents, school officials said they found Stepp had directed the college loan repayments and other education reimbursements for himself using district money kept at the Medina County Schools’ Educational Service Center.

The board voted to rescind Stepp’s contract April 16, saying it was invalid because the Jan. 7 meeting was not properly advertised as required by Ohio’s open meeting laws.

Stepp responded by filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Akron.

The board filed a counterclaim that was amended last month to include a demand of more than $1 million in compensatory and punitive damages, including the $4,121 listed in the audit and $172,000 in student loan payments made by Stepp.

Pretrial motions in that case are set for July.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or at lgenson@medina-gazette.com.
Kiera Manion-Fischer contributed reporting.

  • OhioGuy10

    This is a nice symbolic gesture but I do believe Stepp willnbe keeping most of his money and actually getting more for how the boardnreacted when the jig was up. Medina Schools have a long history of wastingnmoney. I encourage you to read the CUPP (From the Ohio Department of Education)report which detailsnschool districts spending. We are among the highest in the county. Surprisinglynthe two districts that supposedly share a Treasurer to save money are thenlargest spending districts in the county per student. Is the double oversightncausing waste? Medina has many areas to save money. They choose not to look atnthem but focus their cuts on programs that affect the kids so their parents cannbe shamed into passing a levy. According to the Culp report Medina spends morenon instruction than any other district in Medina County. Then why to we neednmore teachers and have the lowest test scores? Perhaps some of the outragednsheep should look into this. They believe what they are told. As long asnsomeone keeps them in the loop and tosses a few tidbits their way they arencontent. Stepp was not the overall problem but he is a good start. A new Treasurernis needed now and new administration as well. A new Super who does not agreenwith everything the union says. The Union has come out of this looking goldennwhen they have been a major part of the problem. Some teachers do deserve whatnthey get paid, a lot do not and some deserve more but that is the Unions fault.n If Highland, Buckeye and Wadsworth cannget by with spending over $1,300 less per student while scoring higher why canu2019tnwe? Have any of the candidates asked that question or do they all thinknspending is under control now that Stepp is gone? Manage your resources betternand you will see a better school. Throw good money after bad and you will see antemporary band aid. Cure the disease!

  • OLDNAVYVET

    The “Board” should pay. They hired him.