Probation for Western Reserve school chief

NORWALK Four months after Doug Solet's attorney said his client looked forward to clearing his name
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010



Four months after Doug Solet's attorney said his client looked forward to clearing his name in court, Solet pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct.

The embattled Western Reserve superintendent and former St. Mary Central Catholic High School principal entered his plea in Norwalk Municipal Court on Tuesday, one day before he was scheduled to go to trial.

While the judge suspended a 30-day jail term, Solet was put on probation for two years and ordered to have no association with the woman he is accused of sexually harassing.

The superintendent was originally charged with telecommunications harassment and coercion after sexual harassment allegations were made against him by a female part-time bus driver.

The 31-year-old employee accused Solet, 40, of sending her text messages asking for naked photos and others of her "playing with herself," a Huron County Sheriff's office report states.

The text messages weren't the only complaint the employee made against Solet.

She also claimed that on several occasions he made unwanted sexual solicitations and tried to kiss her. The bus driver also claimed Solet used his position of power to prevent her from making any kind of formal complaint.

"The basis for that charge was an allegation that he told her that if she told anyone what was going on, he makes $80,000 a year, she's a bus driver, they would believe him over her," said T. Douglas Clifford, Norwalk's assistant law director.

But she did file a complaint both with the sheriff's office and the school district. Solet also filed a complaint later against her, making similar claims.

A probe into the accusations of both parties concluded Solet acted out of line. While unable to substantiate much of Solet's and the employee's claims, the outside human resources firm handling the investigation determined Solet violated school policies.

The report found that Solet, who was hired as superintendent in August 2007, has a history of making "unwelcome" and "unprofessional" invitations to female staff members. No evidence supporting his claims was found.

The Western Reserve school board took action and began the process of firing Solet. But he appealed the decision and a mediator from the Ohio Department of Education was called in.

The results of that mediation were unavailable Wednesday.

School board members and Solet's attorney did not immediately return calls for comment.

The legal fight, however, is not yet over for the superintendent.

In a civil suit filed in April against the bus driver, Solet is seeking at least $50,000 in damages for "false and defamatory statements" she allegedly made about him and for interfering with his business relationship with the school district.

Neither lawyer -- Solet's and the bus driver's -- immediately returned calls seeking comment.

It is unclear how Solet's no contest plea to the fourth-degree misdemeanor will affect his civil case.

Solet was serving the first year of a three-year contract. His annual salary was $74,500.