November 21, 2014

Medina
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Board looks to help resident join lawsuit against Randy Stepp

Attorneys representing Medina school officials have filed a motion in federal court supporting a local resident’s request to join a lawsuit against former Superintendent Randy Stepp.

J.R. Russell, a Medina attorney, filed a motion to intervene in the case against Medina Schools and the Board of Education in U.S. District Court in Akron.

Russell argues that school board members violated Ohio’s open meetings law by failing to properly publicize a five-year contract for Stepp, which unanimously was approved at a “work session” on Jan. 7, 2013.

In a filing Feb. 18, attorneys for the school board support Russell’s claims.

“J.R. Russell represents separate interests apart from these defendants in a matter in which they all share common issues,” the attorneys, Warren Rosman, Christopher Ernst, Dane Gaschen and Jonathan Greenberg, wrote.

In the rest of the document, the attorneys cite case law backing up their request that Russell be granted a motion to intervene.

In April, school board members rescinded Stepp’s contract, saying it was approved without proper publicity and in violation of Ohio’s open meetings law. That move prompted Stepp to file the federal suit in May 2013 charging school board members with breach of contract, defamation and invasion of privacy.

Russell initially filed a suit against Stepp in Medina County Common Pleas Court in July, asking a county judge to revoke Stepp’s contract because it violated open meeting laws.

In November, Russell filed a motion to intervene in a county court case against the board filed by Stepp. His attempts to intervene were halted when visiting Judge Thomas Pokorny issued a stay in both county-level cases, pending the outcome of the federal case.

Stepp has been on administrative leave from the school district since April. In October, Ohio Auditor Dave Yost found he illegally spent at least $4,121 as well as $1.5 million that either was not properly documented or had an “unclear” purpose.

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