June 25, 2016

Mostly clear

Law director to Stepp: Pay up or face charges

Medina Law Director Greg Huber has filed a lawsuit against suspended Medina Schools Superintendent Randy Stepp in an attempt to recover $4,121 the state auditor says Stepp owes to the district.

Huber filed the suit in Medina County Common Pleas Court on Nov. 26. Huber sent Stepp a letter on Nov. 1 ordering him to repay the money within 20 days or face civil charges.

Randy Stepp

Stepp didn’t respond to Huber’s letter. Instead he filed a lawsuit Nov. 13 in common pleas court alleging state Auditor Dave Yost’s office improperly conducted the audit. He also named the Medina Board of Education in the suit.

Yost released an audit of the district’s funds on Oct. 22 following a six-month investigation. The audit found $4,121 worth of illegal expenses, most of which was paid through a “carryover” fund held by the district at the Medina County Schools’ Educational Service Center.

The audit also found nearly $1 million was spent without proper authorization, half for which the “proper public purpose was unclear.”

In a letter dated Oct. 22, Yost’s office asked Huber to reclaim the money from Stepp on behalf of the school district.

In his suit, Stepp accuses Yost’s office of performing a biased and, therefore, illegal audit into his spending.

His suit says the audit was biased because William J. Ward, who worked as the audit’s senior manager, is a Medina resident and sits on Project: LEARN’s board of trustees. The suit claims that Ward’s work as trustee creates a conflict of interest because Project: LEARN hired Medina school board President Karla Robinson as its executive director while the audit was ongoing.

Stepp’s suit will not be heard by Medina County judges, because both Judge James L. Kimbler and Christopher J. Collier have withdrawn from the case “to avoid the appearance of impropriety.”

In the suit filed by Stepp, Yost is being represented by U.S. Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, according to paperwork filed on Nov. 25.

A spokesman for DeWine said Huber will continue to represent the school district in its attempt to get the $4,121 from Stepp.

“The local government has the first obligation, then it goes to the county prosecutor, and if they decline, the attorney general’s office’s collections section could collect on behalf of the auditor, but it looks like those steps don’t have to be taken,” DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said.

In October, the school district began the process of terminating Stepp and stopped his school district paycheck. He had been on paid administrative leave since April, when the audit was announced.

In addition to the two suits mentioned above, Stepp is suing school board members, Treasurer Jim Hudson and Jim Shields, the district’s human resources director and legal counsel, for breach of contract in federal court, and the board has filed a countersuit.

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.