MEDINA: Just days after a state audit found that Superintendent Randy Stepp improperly spent public funds, the Medina Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday night to begin a process that could lead to his firing.
In a statement, the board said it would notify Stepp of his right to a hearing to make his case for keeping his job. The board will meet at 3 p.m. Monday to decide whether to begin termination proceedings.
If termination is authorized, Stepp would be suspended immediately without pay.
The move comes amid a tumultuous year for the district that has seen its entire school board resign or announce intentions to resign after community outcry over what some perceived to be an overly generous contract for Stepp.
Reaction to the board’s vote was swift.
A group of citizens that has been critical of Stepp and the board declared victory on its Medina City Schools Outrage Facebook page. The teachers union, which had questioned the superintendent’s spending habits, also weighed in.
“It’s now time to rebuild,” the union said in a written statement. “We are at an important crossroads in our local history. We have an opportunity.
“We should ask ourselves: What do we want for our children? How do we want Medina to be viewed?”
The board’s vote comes just 11 days before the cash-strapped district will ask voters to approve a 5.9-mill levy.
The Medina school board first drew criticism this year by renegotiating Stepp’s contract to include an $83,000 retention bonus.
A subsequent uproar over misappropriated funds came after the teachers union reviewed expenditures Stepp had approved that were allocated in a special fund administered by the county educational service center.
The board placed Stepp on administrative leave in April, pending an investigation by the state auditor’s office into $6.9 million in funds overseen by Stepp since 2005.
Preliminary findings in the auditor’s investigation indicate that $950,000 was spent without the board’s explicit knowledge.
All board members who approved Stepp’s renegotiated contract have agreed not to seek re-election.
Stepp has been ordered to repay $4,121 in gift cards and travel expenses “that did not appear to have a proper public use.”
State Auditor David Yost said in a news release Tuesday that his staff now will scrutinize $172,011 that Stepp used to pay off student loans.
“When public officials gain a sense of entitlement, this sort of bad spending follows,” Yost said. “I am eagerly awaiting the rest of the facts from the U.S. Department of Education about his personal school loans.”
Stepp, who agreed before his April release to return his $83,000 bonus, filed a lawsuit against the district in May for breach of contract and damages.