November 20, 2014

Medina
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Former Superintendent Randy Stepp sues Medina Schools ex-board members

Randy Stepp

Randy Stepp

Former Medina Schools Superintendent Randy Stepp filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the district and former school board members, accusing them of breach of contract, defamation and invasion of privacy.

The new lawsuit, filed in Medina County Common Pleas Court, was expected. Earlier this month, a federal judge dismissed similar claims contained in a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland.

The judge ruled the issues raised in Stepp’s suit were questions of state — not federal law — and belonged in common pleas court.

Stepp filed the federal suit in May 2013 after the board placed him on administrative leave the month before and ordered a special state audit into his spending. They also voted to terminate a contract they approved in January 2013 that awarded Stepp an $83,000 bonus.

In October, the school board voted to fire Stepp after the audit found more than $4,000 in illegal spending by Stepp and more than $1.5 million in spending that wasn’t properly documented or had no clear public purpose.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday names the Medina school board, former board members Karla Robinson, Susan Vlcek, William Grenfell and Charles Freeman, and human resources director Jim Shields, who also serves as general counsel for the district.

The case was assigned to Visiting Common Pleas Judge Thomas Pokorny.

At a status conference Wednesday, Pokorny said he would combine Stepp’s new suit with a suit filed in July 2013 by Medina attorney J.R. Russell, according to Russell’s attorney Maryanne Chandler.

Russell’s suit accuses the school board and Stepp of violating state Sunshine Laws when they approved Stepp’s contract in January 2013.

Russell had filed a motion in federal court to have his allegations considered in Stepp’s federal suit against the board. Board members named in the federal suit also filed paperwork with the federal court stating they supported Russell’s motion.

Chandler said they expected the case to move back to common pleas court, but weren’t sure if Stepp’s attorney would file claims as a countersuit to Russell’s 2013 suit or as a new case.

“We all expected to be back here. It was just a question of how it would work,” she said. “My understanding is the cases will be consolidated or in some manner handled together.”

Chandler said Pokorny, who postponed action on Russell’s lawsuit pending the outcome of the federal case, now will consider the merits of Russell’s case.

“The question is whether Mr. Russell has standing to bring this complaint, and of course we believe any person can raise a claim of a violation of the Open Meetings Act,” she said.

In a judgment entry filed Wednesday, Pokorny directed Russell’s attorneys to file future paperwork under the same case number as Stepp’s suit.

Pokorny also set a timeline for court filings that require all motions and replies be filed by June 1, 2015. A trial date is set for Sept. 28, 2015.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com. Follow her on Twitter @lorengenson.


  • dogeatdog123

    Why won’t he just go away? And how does he have money to pay his attorneys when he can’t even pay his mortgage? Dealing with this guy is like watching a bull throw its rider off into the mud again and again, but he keeps getting back on his bull.

  • DogEatDog123

    When will this guy just go away? He is kind of a like a bull rider who keeps getting thrown off the bull, but picks himself up out of the mud and gets right back on his bull.

  • Dan

    How much money are we wasting with these lawsuits going back and forth?

  • pollos

    Smart move: Lose your house to foreclosure, but keep on paying the lawyers when your case doesn’t have a chance of moving for another year.
    This was the man in charge of educating thousands of Medina youngsters.
    I would like to know what splits this has opened up in Medina school administration and how those have healed, if at all.
    No one, it seems to me, has been punished for this atrocity except for Stepp. That’s crazy. He couldn’t give himself all of this cash, perks, trips and money moving without lots of help from others…

  • Realistic

    You are right – I belive that Stepp’s case against the former board members is valid. They are the ones to blame. By the same token, he himself is to blame for even thinking that his school tuition should have been reimbursed. So, both cases warranted, and it will end up being a wash in the end I bet.
    One thing that is exposed in all of this (and should be treated as a learning point) is that the board of education for a school district is not something that should be taken lightly. The position requires common sense, budget-sense, human realtion-sense, and INTEGRITY. This is something that the previous board did not have. They had their kid-blinders on and didn’t treat their position with respect. Since all of this has happened, the new board members understand that this is no joke, or walk in the park. This is a serious job and you need credentials for it. There are ramifications for their actions, or even their inactions.

  • justice

    Do your own due diligence. Read the other side of the story and look at some of the evidence enclosed within Stepp’s filing on August 20. The entire complaint is now on the Medina County Clerk of Courts website. Pollos, (commented below) is correct, he didn’t give himself anything. The board and it’s legal counsel, offered, negotiated, was aware and agreed to everything he received. You may not agree with how the district was run, but with regards to the bologna we have been led to believe about the board not knowing and their legal counsel not being aware or not understanding what they were agreeing to is completely erroneous. Read copies of the emails from Mr. Shields contained within the complaint, read the language within the contract then read their PR release. They all knew, approved, and negotiated his contract in good faith. Yet they lied to all of us about not knowing, or not being aware of what the contract language meant. How can the legal counsel for the board not understand contract language? Give me a break Mr. Shields! You and the board should be held accountable for lying to our community to save your own skins.

  • sarah

    AGREE!!! All one has to do is read the Medina County Clerk of Courts website as I did. The board did negotiate Dr. Stepp’s contract and agreed to pay. Stepp didn’t hide a thing, but Mr. Shields on the other hand has plenty to hide. Quit pointing fingers Mr. Shields and man up. This has gone on long enough and unfortunately Dr. Stepp has suffered when he did nothing wrong.

  • Concerned

    Absolutely Right! It is unbelievable that the former Board simply walked away by simply resigning without ever really accepting any responsibility or having any sanctions against them – except possibly public ridicule! That said, Stepp if far from innocent as well. Your can say what you what about the contract process, but there are just too many other “skeletons” in his closet including the way he directed funds which were under his control. Good riddance to all of them!!!

  • medinagirl

    Arrogance , plain and simple .

  • DogEatDog123

    Stepp didn’t hid a thing? HOW ABOUT ALL OF THE MONEY HE UNDERHANDEDLY STOLE FROM THE ESC? Was that $1.5 million on the up and up? He deserves what he gets. Nothing.

  • sarah

    What did he steal? Everything he did was
    approved by the ESC. Nothing in the auditors findings claimed he pocketed
    money. If he did, he would have been prosecuted. Unsupported or unclear purpose
    (according to the auditor and what the Gazette has reported, does not mean
    stealing or lining his pockets. Amazing, with so little factual information,
    some of you draw conclusions based on bits and pieces of unsubstantiated
    rumors, half-truths and looking at only one side of the story. Why do we have a
    judicial system? Let a jury of our peers decide.

  • DogEatDog123

    You seem to be the one devoid of facts. NOTHING was approved by the ESC. It was PAID by the ESC at his urging (often with post-it notes) but nothing was approved, because THERE WAS NO APPROVAL PROCESS!!!! He took what he wanted. Yes, I cannot wait for a jury of OUR peers to decide. Then once and for all we can be rid of this monster.

  • justice123

    Again, basing your comments on what has been reported, not facts. No expenditures can be made or reimbursed without the approval of the treasurer. You need to enroll in school or public finance 101.

  • pollos

    It should be pointed out here that Mr. Shields has been a Medina City Councilman for 14 years. Perhaps someone should look closely at what spending decisions he took a particular interest in. Also, I see he’s in charge of human resources for the schools now. Does that mean he no longer serves in an attorney capacity?
    It appears Mr. Shields has made his living solely off of tax payers through both elected and politically-charged appointed positions (schools).
    Perhaps he doesn’t have a good understanding or appreciation for how non-government people want their tax dollars spent.
    Or worse, maybe he doesn’t care.
    Even if you don’t care about your tax dollars, you should care about this city’s education system.
    Considering Medina’s expansive tax base and its high property taxes, we should be getting more for our money.
    We don’t even have a full-time fire department — and I’m not saying we need one — be thats many millions of dollars saved that other cities don’t have..so where does that money go?
    Whose children, nieces, aunts, fathers, etc are on the city payroll? On the school payroll.
    Medina is a small town.
    It’s not like Cuyahoga where it’s easier to hide.
    We should all call out all wrongdoing — or possible wrongdoing — when we see it.
    If we want to keep this city a desirable place to live, we owe it to ourselves.
    Look what happened to Parma because no one spoke up.
    Lesson should have been learned.

  • JJ

    What did you use as search criteria to read the complaint on the Medina County Clerk of Courts website? I can’t find Stepp’s filing.

  • DogEatDog123

    You seem to possess an ignorance of reality that is fueled by your apparent ego and complete lack of an ability to understand what went on here. Go do some research and discover how the school, school board and the failed former superintendent back-doored the money because of a lack of process. There was no finance 101 here, AND THAT IS THE EXACT CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM. Everything is not black and white in this case, and disturbingly, Stepp knew exactly how to circumvent what you like to call public finance 101. Likely learned that at OUR expense at one one his expensive seminars or maybe in a book about hypnotism.

  • BlueBayou

    Just put his last name in and look for the one dated 8/20/14.