UPDATE: State referee says Fred Fox should be reinstated with full pay
Alissa Widman Neese
Mar 19, 2013 at 11:56 AM
Click here to read the referee's report.
The Huron school board wrongfully fired superintendent Fred Fox, according to an Ohio Department of Education hearing officer.
Board members received a report Monday recommending they reinstate Fox with full back pay, a move that could cost the district $100,000 or more if approved.
School officials refused to release the report, contending it was not a public record, but Fox's attorney, Patrick Murray, provided the Register a copy.
In the 53-page report, state hearing officer Harry Taich said the school board failed to provide "substantial, reliable and probative evidence" to terminate Fox last year.
"In my opinion, after hearing all of the testimony in this matter, it was quite apparent to this referee that personal feelings appeared to replace sound judgment," Taich stated in the report.
In June, the board voted 3-2 to fire Fox for his alleged misdeeds, including an improper business relationship with a district vendor, improperly seeking reimbursements for a trip to Arizona and an extramarital affair on school time.
The board contended the behavior was detrimental to Huron Schools, but Taich said this wasn't the case.
"The district failed to establish by credible evidence that Mr. Fox's inappropriate relationship with the other school district principal hampered his effectiveness as a superintendent," the report stated. "On the contrary, the overwhelming evidence did establish that the district has thrived under his leadership."
The board is expected to take action on Fox's termination at its monthly meeting next week. An executive session to review the state's recommendation is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, with no action planned until the regular board meeting three days later.
Board members Kevin Asher and John Caporini, who voted against Fox's firing, said at last month's meeting they would vote in favor of the state's recommendation — no matter what it said.
After reading Taich's report, Asher said he hopes the entire board will do the same and "move on." He encouraged community members to attend Tuesday's meeting to voice their opinions on the matter.
"We have budget issues, negotiations with our classified staff union and more important things to be worrying about than this nonsense," Asher said. "This has taken a year away from us doing the job we were elected to do. We need to get back to the business of this school."
Board president Scott Slocum and board member Tim Sowecke did not return calls seeking comment Monday.
Register reporter Jessica Cuffman contributed to this story.
Want to go?
What: Huron school board meeting
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 19
Where: Shawnee Elementary School cafeteria
•February 2012 — Board meets with attorney Matt Markling to discuss allegations made against superintendent Fred Fox, including an improper business relationship with a district vendor, improperly sought reimbursements for a trip to Arizona and an extramarital affair on school time.
•May — Markling delivers 50-page report to board.
•June 19 — Board suspends Fred Fox and votes to start termination proceedings against him.
•June 20 — Markling report is released as a public record.
•June 28 — Board member Kevin Asher files lawsuit to keep board from paying Markling bill.
•Sept. 6 — Fox's attorney, Patrick Murray, answers 23 allegations against Fox that the board says warrants his termination.
•Sept. 12 — Fox files a lawsuit against board member Tim Sowecke, alleging defamation and libel and demanding more than $2.5 million in damages.
•January 2013 — Fox's closed-door termination hearings end.
•Feb. 13 — Asher's lawsuit is dismissed.
•Feb. 18 — Board approves paying full amount of $90,000 Markling bill.
•March 11 — Ohio Department of Education's hearing officer recommends reinstating Fox with full back pay.
Click here for the ePaper or buy a Register at a newsstand near you to learn what's next for Fred Fox and the Huron school board. Check back here at sanduskyregister.com for updates as they become available.