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There's no there there

Alissa Widman Neese • Jun 6, 2014 at 10:20 AM

More than two years after launching an investigation, the Ohio Ethics Commission can't justify any real charges that should be filed against former Huron Schools superintendent Fred Fox, according to his attorney.

Patrick Murray, of the Murray & Murray law firm, said it likely never will.

"There's nothing to it," Murray said Thursday. "They don't have any charges they can support with evidence."

This week, Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter confirmed the commission concluded its investigation this past winter.

On Jan. 8, Baxter forwarded the commission's report to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who will serve as the case's special prosecutor and consider whether criminal charges should be filed. Baxter cited personal conflicts as his reasoning for forwarding the case.

On Thursday, Murray provided insight into what charges the commission is suggesting — at most, a misdemeanor nondisclosure charge, accompanied by a small fine, he said.

"They want us to plea this out, but that's not happening," Murray said. "They don't care about the facts, they just care about getting this closed and saying they've won."

DeWine's office confirmed Thursday it's reviewing an investigation of Fox's behavior while serving as the district's superintendent.

Nonetheless, its representatives are tight-lipped about what criminal charges, if any, Fox could face.

Jill Del Greco, a spokeswoman, said DeWine's office is reviewing the case per Baxter's request, but refused to comment on any specific files the office received.

"I cannot provide additional comment because the case is still open," she said. "If a report created by the Ohio Ethics Commission was forwarded, it would not be public record from us."

The Ohio Ethics Commission fields complaints against public officials and determines whether an accused individual's behavior is unethical. Its representatives will not comment on ongoing investigations until they have publicly released an official report on their findings, which only happens if an individual is found to have behaved unethically.

If an investigated individual is not criminally charged, he or she can still request to publicly release the commission's report, according to the commission's website.

Fox and Murray have not yet seen a copy of the report, Murray said.

In May 2012, a three-person majority of Huron school board members agreed to submit a formal complaint to the Ohio Ethics Commission regarding Fox's alleged misdeeds, including an improper business relationship with a district vendor and improper reimbursements during a business trip.

Fox officially lost his job with Huron Schools in April 2013 through a controversial firing stemming from the practices, as well as an alleged extramarital affair conducted on school time.

He contends the three board members wrongfully terminated him and has a pending lawsuit against them, as well as the district.

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