July 23, 2016

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Auditor’s motion disputes Stepp’s challenge of findings

State Auditor Dave Yost has asked a Medina County judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by former Medina Schools Superintendent Randy Stepp challenging a special audit that found he spent at least $4,121 illegally.

In a motion to dismiss filed Dec. 17, state attorneys general representing Yost stated there is no case law to support Stepp’s request to dismiss the audit and to seek an injunction halting the school board’s effort to fire him.

Randy Stepp

State Assistant Attorneys General Richard N. Coglianese, Sarah E. Pierce and Renata Y. Staff argued that Yost has nothing to do with the school board’s decision to fire Stepp and that Medina Law Director Greg Huber is the one taking legal action to get Stepp to repay the $4,121.

“The auditor has no statutory role in the decision to pursue findings for recovery, but simply reports on his examination,” the state attorneys general wrote. “The auditor has no role in the employment action that the plaintiff protests.”

Stepp filed the suit Nov. 13, asking the court to declare a state audit of the district’s finances void. He also named the Medina school board in his suit.

On Dec. 27, Warren Rossman, Christopher Ernst and Dane Gaschen — the attorneys for the school district — filed their response to Stepp’s suit.

In the response, the attorneys wrote that the audit was not the sole reason for firing Stepp.

In addition to the $4,121 “finding for recovery,” the audit, released Oct. 22 after six months of investigation, found nearly $1 million that was spent without proper authorization — half for which the “proper public purpose was unclear.”

The board voted to begin the processes of firing Stepp on Oct. 24.

The district’s attorneys said Stepp is entitled to make a defense during a judicial-type hearing granted to him during termination proceedings, so he has no right to request an injunction.

“Stepp has the ability to point out any problem with the state audit in the administrative hearing regarding his termination,” the attorneys wrote in their answer to the suit.

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

Stepp also said Ward had a conflict of interest in the case because he sits on the board of trustees for Project: LEARN, which hired school board President Karla Robinson as its executive director while the audit was ongoing.

Stepp also argued that his spending from the district’s carryover fund was lawful and proper and requests an injunction against the termination the board initiated. An injunction would halt the termination and appeals process the board has in place.

County Common Pleas judges Christopher Collier and James Kimbler both have recused themselves from the case. A status conference on the case is scheduled for 10 a.m. Jan. 10 before visiting Judge Thomas Pokorny.

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.