'Free' counsel to Huron schools turns costly

Judge dismisses suit that stalled school district's payment to attorney in Fox probe.
Jessica Cuffman
Feb 17, 2013

 

An attorney’s promise to provide 10 free hours of service has turned into a $90,000 bill for Huron Schools.  
Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Roger Binette this week dismissed a lawsuit that had kept Huron Schools from paying attorney Matt Markling for his work on the Fred Fox investigation.  
Early last year, the board voted 3-2 to hire Markling to investigate Fox’s alleged misdeeds, including his interactions with a district vendor and an extramarital affair on school time.  
After interviewing a number of district employees, Markling issued a 50-page report that concluded the board had substantial reason to fire Fox.   
Markling had told board members his first 10 hours of work would be free, and he would send a bill for any additional work. He kept his word — he submitted a $50,000 bill in June, followed by a $10,000 bill in July, $12,000 in October, $5,300 in November and $11,400 this past week. 
The Fox fiasco has effectively divided the school board, with the majority — Donna Green, Scott Slocum and Tim Sowecke — voting in June to fire Fox. 
The other two members, Kevin Asher 
and John Caporini, voted against the firing. 
The board ultimately suspended him without pay, pending the outcome of termination proceedings overseen by the Ohio Department of Education.   
Asher, however, also filed the lawsuit to keep the school district from paying Markling, but Binette quashed those efforts this week.  
Huron Schools treasurer Mike Weis said the district is mailing a $50,000 check to Markling. The board will then have to approve, or not, the additional $40,000 in expenses, since the district’s insurance company won’t foot the bill.
State education officials have already conducted termination hearings against Fox, but a hearing officer has yet to issue a recommendation to either fire or retain Fox. The board does not have to follow the advice. 
The days of hearings, held at Sawmill Creek, were closed to the public and spaced out over a period of months.  
The hearings addressed 23 alleged wrongdoings on Fox’s part, including three major allegations: Fox had an improper business relationship with a district vendor; he improperly sought reimbursements for a trip to Arizona; and he was involved in an extramarital affair on school time.
This past week, Binette also issued a key ruling in a defamation lawsuit Fox filed against Sowecke.
Fox alleges Sowecke delivered the Markling report to the Ohio Ethics Commission to intentionally make the document a public record, thus defaming the superintendent. In court documents, Sowecke’s attorneys said any material provided to the ethics commission would have been privileged and exempt from public disclosure. As such, Sowecke would be immune from a defamation lawsuit.
While Binette seemed to agree, there are still too many unanswered questions to simply dismiss the case.  
 

Comments

Ακόμη Sold σχετ...

Rephrase:
There will be a lot 'more' drama before this is all over.

Huron_1969

LOL ... here's hoping the drama has been all spent and just facts and decisions are coming down the pike

Tsu Dho Nimh

Huron...I agree with you 100%!!!!! However, I do not believe that Mr. Fox and company will allow it to settle without a show. It has been a while since the Good Humor Man has made a fool out of himself at a board meeting. His little investigation of the current superintendent back-fired. I am expecting Fred's mouthpiece to speak out at the March board meeting.

wiredmama222

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Libel and defamation.

Julie R.

@ wiredmama: I don't agree. I live in Huron and I'm sure not like that .... and neither are the majority of the people in Huron. If anybody is going to make Huron look bad now it's going to be the attorneys and the courts. In fact, they already have. $90,000.00 for that Markling report to smear it in the paper that Fox had an extra-marital affair? What a crock of pure bull.

Tsu Dho Nimh

Wow!!!! Those are some ugly comments. Do you not find it interesting that your comments offend MANY people yet the people of Huron are the problem?

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Nope 69..
More drama is coming.

And as far as Binnett's ruling, (and don't get me wrong as I think Roger is a stand up guy even for a judge), but this ruling on the injunction will be appealed. It will be even funnier when Markling is ordered to pay back the
$50,000 to the insurance company and the other $40,000 that the 3 Stooges ok'd. Notice, Huron taxpayers, that your board's insurance company stopped them from raising their insurance limits and ended up only paying $50,000.

WiredMama is hitting the nail on the head when she says if they had so much on Fred Fox.. Why didn't they just fire him ? They had 3-2 shot at doing it ? Why go through all of the muck raking ? She doesn't have to be from Huron to smell what these three are cooking.

Julie R.

Binette's a stand-up guy?

(I almost puked when I read that!)

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Julie R-
I've known Roger Binette since he was a child.
Roger Binette would not lie to save his family's life.

Now.. Having said that he is the only judge in Erie County that I would call a 'stand up guy'..

Julie R.

I sure didn't get that impression.

SilentMajority

WOW! Wired...is it possible to be more arrogant and condescending? You belong in Public Office!

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TDN-
Open your ears/eyes and read what I told you. More drama coming.

Now I'm not saying what it will involve at this point, but it will be worth the wait... lol

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Ok..
Reading what the Register printed and thinking it is pretty funny because the Register itself got their ink stained hands on the Markling report because it became a matter of public record. Here is how that came about:

The Huron Board of Education's attorney advised the Board that taking the Markling report to the OEC, (Ohio Education Commission), would break attorney/client privilege and make it public. The OEC would never release the document because everything they do is confidential. This is all documented in an email to the board.

Once the Markling report was released to the OEC, the Register requested it, (as they were tipped off that it happened).

Mike Weiss, (the Huron treasurer), did not have a copy of the report. He called the board's attorney, and the attorney told him it was now public and sent a copy to Mike Weiss and told him he had to release it.

That is the sequence. Tim Sowecke was in the executive session when advised by the board attorney not to release the Markling report to the OEC. In that session they all agreed on direction, ie, wait until the board's attorney figured out the next steps to take.

Instead Tim Sowecke moved on his own. Called the OEC, got the paperwork, (Attorney Markling helped him with paperwork), he delivered the Markling report to OEC. Then after all done, he called Scott Slocum and told him what he had done.

In a nutshell that is what happened. That is why Judge Binette did not throw out the Tim Sowecke infamation suit. Tim Sowecke's attorneys asked for a summary dismissal, but were denied.

I'm still amazed at how this was reported by the Register.

Justme...

According the paper, Binnette said it DID NOT become public record as a result of it getting the OEC. But the board's attorney said it DID become public record? So who is right?? And who is blabbing to you about what goes on in executive session?

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I have told you time and time again Justyou..
You have no idea who I am and what I know.

The Register has it wrong and they themselves got thier hands on the Markling report because of Tim Soweke's actions. I am thinking that someone from the Register will end up being supenaed.

Justme...

I don't care who you are. But you said you knew what went on in executive session, and that is interesting, since what goes on in executive session is not for public consumption. Just wondering who is blabbing to you. My question is, did the report become public record or did it not become public record when it was delivered to the OEC? From you have said, it seems like either Binette is wrong of the boards attorney was wrong.

Ακόμη Sold σχετ...

One more time..
The Markling report became a public document, (according to the board's attorney), when Tim Soweke delivered it to the OEC on his own, ignoring what the board's own attorney had advised.

Justme...

However, according to the article, "Sowecke's attorneys said any material provided to the ethics commission would have been privileged and exempt from public disclosure..." And apparantly Binette seems to agree. So who is right?

Tsu Dho Nimh

Justme...Based on another opinion given earlier by another poster, I cannot help but wonder if Fox, Caporini, or Asher wanted this to go public. Think about it, if there is a report out there that could ruin your career and you know that the OEC and ODE will have access to it, and the these two agencies will most likely rule against you, would you not want to make this report everything but credible? Get the report out there and then start yelling "foul".

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Wow TDN-
You are really using your imagination on this one.

Read what I detailed happened. It will be released soon as 'testimony under oath'.

No one you mention above is quite that diabolicle, (sp?)..

Tsu Dho Nimh

Gee, you sure know a lot about what was said at a private hearing. How is that? If your story is true, then why does Mr. Fox and his wonderful attorney not go after the board's attorney for giving them incorrect direction? The OEC says that all files are confidential, Mr. Sowecke's attorney said all files are confidential, and Judge Binette said the files did not become public record. Sounds like Mr. Murray does not know what he is doing, either.

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Justme-
(Read this)
This past week, Binette also issued a key ruling in a defamation lawsuit Fox filed against Sowecke.

Fox alleges Sowecke delivered the Markling report to the Ohio Ethics Commission to intentionally make the document a public record, thus defaming the superintendent. In court documents, Sowecke's attorneys said any material provided to the ethics commission would have been privileged and exempt from public disclosure. As such, Sowecke would be immune from a defamation lawsuit.
While Binette seemed to agree, there are still too many unanswered questions to simply dismiss the case.

'While Binette SEEMED TO AGREE'

'In court documents, SOWECKE'S ATTORNEYS said any material provided to the ethics commission would have been privileged and exempt from public disclosure.'

So..
Binnett SEEMED to agree with what Sowecke's ATTORNEYS ALLEDGED.

Once again reading between the lines allows some to assume that this whole situation was not premeditated by Sowecke's delivery of the Markling report.

Fred Fox ALLEDGIDLY did something. ALLEDGIDLY and only according to a completely biased report issued by an attorney who was looking for a $90,000 pay day at the expense of Huron taxpayers.

(I posted this twice to make sure you saw it !)

Tsu Dho Nimh

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

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Not only is the drama not over in this soap opera it's about to get better/worse.. Depending on how you see it.

berlinrdgang

All five of these homers need to go! The good ole boys clubs run this town and only thing they are good at are lining the pockets of their friends and making our town look real foolish when it all falls apart!

I know most of the people on this school board including Mr Fox. What Mr Fox has done was wrong and probably should be fired, but to have his name run throught he mud is wrong and done on purpose by board members who are very vendetive. This to me makes all these fools in the wrong and they all need to go!

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BerlinRdGang-
Fred Fox has done nothing out of the ordinary and will be exhonerated.

And after that there will be a purge.

There you go again

"Nothing out of the ordinary?". I would hope you would have higher standards for the educators of our children than to allow our leader to conduct affairs on school time, use school emails, and whatever else he was doing on the business trips. I won't even go into the Busgate debacle. Our children deserve better and we, as adults, should demand it. (I'm starting to sound like Obama)

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ThereYouGoAgain-
Fred Fox ALLEDGIDLY did what you quote above. You even embellished it with: 'Whatever else he was doing on business trips.'

A 'sampling' was done with the Huron City Schools email and you hopefully may be amazed, that out of the three people whose email was sampled... Every one of them contained 'personal' emails. One of them even had emails pertianing to what had happened in a board executive session from a board member who happens to be in the majority right now.

Fred Fox cannot be treated any differently than any other employee of the Huron City Schools. They all use their email for personal use !

Tsu Dho Nimh

Why is it that you are privy to what takes place in executive sessions? Also, please explain why it is okay for YOU to know what happens in executive session but not for others. It is very clear that you get information either directly or indirectly from Asher or Caporini. Even Mr. Fox seems to find out what happens and his mouth piece spouts off at board meetings. Sounds like there are loose lips on both sides.

Dudley Do-Right

"Fred Fox has done nothing out of the ordinary" really ... would the Murrays who sit on Sandusky City Schools and Sandusky Central Catholic boards agree? Would they tolerate the same behaviors from their superintendents? Doubt it! I bet they have interesting conversations during family get togethers.

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