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Fox fights firing; files suit to get job back

Jessica Cuffman • May 1, 2013 at 12:09 PM

Fox’s attorney, W. Patrick Murray, filed the lawsuit Monday, naming Huron Schools and board members Tim Sowecke, Scott Slocum and Donna Green as defendants.

The three voted to fire him April 2, a climax after a year of investigation, termination and court proceedings that have created political turmoil in the district. 

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Fox’s termination came on the heels of allegations he improperly submitted reimbursement requests for expenses after a trip to Arizona; maintained an inappropriate business relationship with a district vendor; and carried on an extramarital affair during school hours using school computers and email.

In the lawsuit filed Monday in Erie County Common Pleas Court, Fox relies heavily on the March 11 termination hearing officer’s report that recommended Fox be reinstated to his super-intendent’s position with back pay.

“Not only did the impartial referee carefully listen to each witness’ testimony during the hearing he studied the entire hearing transcript numerous times,” the lawsuit states.

In the end, the referee found the board had no reason to fire Fox. 

Even so, in a split vote, Sowecke, Slocum and Green disagreed with the recommendation and voted to fire Fox, trumping the votes of board members Kevin Asher and John Caporini, who wanted to reinstate him.

Fox is suing the district on multiple counts, including wrongful termination, violation of Ohio public records law, civil conspiracy, invasion of privacy and defamation for statements made at the termination hearing. He seeks a reversal and expungement of his termination, reinstatement of his contract, backpay with interest, attorney and litigation fees, and compensatory and punitive damages.

Sowecke, Slocum and Green’s conduct has been characterized by “hatred, ill will” and a “spirit of revenge,” according to the 40-page lawsuit.

The three board members, the lawsuit claims, “intentionally misrepresented the testimony presented at the termination hearing and intentionally misrepresented the findings of the impartial referee.”

The board referenced testimony from four witnesses when refuting the referee’s recommendation: former high school principal John Ruf; elementary principal Tanny Vonthron; and two former North Point Educational Service Center employees, Bill Lally and Dan McCarthy.

In response to Fox’s most recent lawsuit, attorney Drew Legando, who represents Sowecke and Green, offered a statement by email.

Is it Fox’s position that the district should be punished because board members listened when four of the most well respected administrators in Erie County—Mr. Lally, Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Ruf, and Ms. Vonthron—chose to tell the truth about Fox’s misconduct?” he said.

”Strange, coming from someone who claims to care about the students, teachers, and taxpayers of Huron,” Legando said.

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