July 23, 2016

Mostly clear

School board: Treasurer’s contract mishandled (updated with full text of contracts)

Full text of treasurer’s current contract
First draft of proposed contract
Revised draft of proposed contract

Kiera Manion-Fischer, Loren Genson and David Knox | The Gazette

The original draft of a proposed five-year contract for Medina Schools Treasurer Jim Hudson provided at least $1,900 in additional annual compensation plus overtime.

The revised draft presented Monday by the school board trimmed the term of the contract to three years and cut the overall pay package to bring it closer to what Hudson is earning now.

Jim Hudson

The revised contract, expected to be voted on at the school board’s Dec. 16 meeting, would pay Hudson $97,241, compared to the $96,335 he now receives in total salary compensation.

The Gazette received copies of the first and revised drafts Tuesday in response to a public records request made Friday and Monday.

Board President Karla Robinson said the board agreed to trim the contract after members received a flurry of emails over the weekend from people concerned the board planned to give Hudson a large raise.

“People were assuming the worst the whole time,” Robinson said.

The revised contract deleted a provision that would have paid Hudson $1,900 — or 5 percent of the net revenue from the “shared services” agreement, reached in August 2012, that permitted Hudson to serve as treasurer of Cloverleaf Schools.

The agreement calls on Cloverleaf to pay Medina $72,000 annually. From that amount, Hudson is paid $19,000.

Other expenses on behalf of Cloverleaf bring the total cost to about $34,000 — giving Medina a net gain of about $38,000, with Hudson receiving 5 percent of that amount.

Robinson said the agreement provides Medina Schools with some revenue while saving Cloverleaf money.

“They could not have the services of a treasurer for $72,000, she said.

Also deleted from the first draft of the contract was a provision that Hudson would continue to be paid the $19,000 if the Medina school board backed out of the shared services agreement.

Robinson said the board deleted that provision because “that was not revenue neutral.”

The first draft also permitted Hudson to earn overtime at a rate about $47 an hour. That provision also was eliminated from the revised draft.

At Monday’s meeting, school board member Bill Grenfell presented a slide show summarizing the proposed revised contract.

Grenfell’s presentation stated that the new contract provided “no change in compensation” for Hudson.

A Gazette review of the contract showed that wasn’t accurate. The revised draft, if approved by the board, would give Hudson $906 more than he gets now.

Robinson acknowledged the error.

“That calculation was incorrect,” Robinson said.

Robinson also acknowledged that the board erred in not releasing the draft contracts in response to The Gazette’s public records requests on Friday and Monday.

In an email to a reporter Tuesday, Robinson said she assumed the draft was not a public record because “It was preliminary in nature.”

“I was mistaken in thinking that a draft of that nature is not a public document,” she said.

The failure to release the text of the proposed contact fueled complaints that the board had broken its promise to be more transparent.

Since March, the board has been embroiled in controversy that began with the approval of a five-year contract for Superintendent Randy Stepp at a work session in January. The contract, which was not publicized, provided for at least $186,000 in wages, bonuses and fringe benefits and an $83,000 signing bonus.

The public uproar over the contract eventually led to the board rescinding the contract and requesting a special state audit of Stepp’s spending, and starting the process to fire him. Stepp has since sued the board and the state auditor.

John Leatherman, president of the Medina City Teachers Association, said he was glad to see Hudson’s contract reduced from five to three years. But he said he was dismayed that the proposal came just two weeks after voters approved a five-year, 5.9-mill levy.

“I was really disheartened to see it in the agenda on Thursday,” he said. “The timing was absolutely terrible.

“Last night should have been a time of celebration and a time of excitement and instead it felt like a board meeting of nine months ago.”

Robinson defended the timing of the contract, saying school boards typically don’t like to wait until after the first of the year to renew a treasurer’s contract.

“In the world of school treasurers, that tends to be a message that you don’t want to retain the person, that you’re likely gearing up to non-renew them,” she said.

Ohio law requires the board to make a decision on a new contract by Feb. 28.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com. Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com. Contact David Knox at (330) 721-4065 or dknox@medina-gazette.com.

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The Gazette is Medina County's daily local news source, serving the community since 1832. Contact The Gazette's news department at (330) 721-4065 or areanews@medina-gazette.com.