October 25, 2014

Medina
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Randy Stepp sues to overturn state audit

Randy Stepp

Nick Glunt and Loren Genson | The Gazette

MEDINA — Suspended Medina Schools Superintendent Randy Stepp filed another lawsuit Wednesday, accusing the Ohio Auditor’s Office of performing a biased and therefore illegal audit into his spending from a “carryover” fund held by the Medina County Schools’ Educational Service Center.

The suit, filed in Medina County Common Pleas Court, names state Auditor David Yost and the Medina Board of Education as defendants.

In his complaint, Stepp accused William J. Ward, who he said worked as the audit’s senior manager, of impropriety because Ward is a Medina resident and had a specific interest in deposing Stepp.

He also said Ward sits on the board of trustees of Project: LEARN, which hired school board President Karla Robinson as its executive director while the audit was ongoing.

“Notwithstanding Mr. Ward’s professional relationship with Robinson and his lack of independence in fact and in appearance, Mr. Ward continued to act as senior audit manager for the state audit,” the lawsuit reads.

The audit, released Oct. 22 after six months of investigation, found that Stepp was responsible for more than $4,100 worth of illegal expenses, which he’s been ordered to pay back. The audit also found nearly $1 million that was spent without proper authorization — half for which the “proper public purpose was unclear.”

A spokeswoman for Yost said the auditor’s office likely will ask that Stepp’s suit be dismissed.

“We stand by our audit work and we anticipate that we’ll ask for this claim to be dismissed,” spokeswoman Carrie Bartunek said.

Wednesday’s suit is the second one Stepp has filed against the school board since members began an investigation into his spending in April and placed Stepp on administrative leave.

In May, Stepp filed a suit in U.S. District Court, in Akron, against school officials that alleges a breach of contract, defamation and invasion of privacy.

In the new lawsuit, Stepp argues that his spending from the carryover fund was lawful and proper and requests an injunction against the termination proceedings the board initiated on Oct. 24 following the audit’s release. An injunction would halt the termination and appeals process the board has in place.

The board is expected to send Stepp a letter outlining the reasons for his termination. Once that list is received, Stepp has the right to appeal his termination and go before a neutral hearing officer to plead his case as to why he should not be terminated.

Finally, Stepp also accuses the school board of refusing to respond to a public records request. In his claim, Stepp seeks a writ of mandamus directing the school board to produce the public records he requested.

In an exhibit attached to his suit, Stepp provided a copy of the records request he made of the school district on May 23 through his attorney Michael Matasich. In his request, he lists 27 different items including agendas, notes and video recordings of board meetings.

He also asks for any emails between two or more school officials, members of the media and a few community members who vocally have supported Stepp’s firing.

School district spokeswoman Jeanne Hurt said the board was alerted to the suit Thursday morning.

“The matter has been referred to our attorneys, who are investigating the claims made in the suit,” Hurt said. She declined to comment further.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com. Contact Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.