'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.  


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With all I've said.. I sound desperate ?

This is cut and dried.

Fred Fox will be back at work soon. And yes, Fred took his vacation. Don't you ?

And as for training the retiree so he can use it in his next 'situation' I am amazed at how you would spend our tax dollars. I am desperate to have a solid school system again. You don't seem to care about what's actually happening and prefer to blame Fred Fox for everything including 9/11. Why not listen to the truth and admit that Fred Fox did nothing wrong ?


I'm not faulting anyone (including Fred) for their time off, as long as their contract entitles them to it. If the new super took time off that he wasn't allowed to take, per his contract, then its an issue. If you and your people are using his entitled time off to try to make a point about your man, one has nothing to do with the other. Fernbaugh is currently the superintendent, whether you like it or not. As such, he is obligated to get training to do that job. If he failed to get that training, I have no doubt certain people would be criticizing him for it and saying he doesn't care about his job. It is very transparent to a lot of poeple what is going on here.

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When you run a business you have a CEO. The CEO runs the company. In education he's called the superintendent. He runs the school.

What we have now is a 'hired gun' who no one else wanted because of his past. I don't see transparency in pointing out how the Huron Board of Education does business. Fernbaugh is just another example of their poor decision making.

Would you want this board running your company ?
(I hope you can see through this to get my real message.. you and your people sounds like we have a team... lol)

Tsu Dho Nimh

What has Fernbaugh done wrong? Try googling his past and what comes up repeatedly is that he does an excellent job for districts that need interim superintendents. What the ice cream man presented led to nothing because the man was not found guiltly of anything and is not currently under investigation for wrong doing. Just you is correct. ALL superintendents must participate in professional development per ODE to keep up with all of the changes that are going on. ODE does not care if the superintendent is going to be around for 3 months or 3 years. Mr. Fernbaugh does not need to be degraded in order to prove that Mr. Fox is innocent of the charges.

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Don't confuse degrading for comparing, TDN.

I am in no way questioning Fernbaugh's work ethic. I am comparing how he is being treated. You folks defending him going for training don't even know what it is he's training for.

And no, TDN.. We are paying him to lead our district. By all accounts he SHOULD know how to do that by now in his career.

This is just another case of the Huron Board of Education wasting money. There are better candidates for that school board that post on here than who is sitting on it now. I would take Retiree over Scott Slocum. At least Retiree cares if anyone is doing their jobs.

Tsu Dho Nimh

I have close friends who are administrators in 2 other districts. All administrators are going through some intense training for the many changes that are going on, especially the new evaluation system that is going into effect. It is not a matter of not knowing how to do their current job, it is all about being ready for the changes. There is no doubt in my mind that this is what Mr. Fernbaugh is attending. Again, he is the current superintendent, interim or not, and ODE expects him to be involved. If he is attending these sessions, then he should be paid for a days work.

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What if that's not what he is training for ?

What then, TDN ?

Tsu Dho Nimh

If he is at PD training, then he is working. With all of the changes going on and the new evaluation process, ALL superintendents are getting the necessary training for the move forward. ODE is mandating certain training. The fact he is 70 has nothing to do with it. I do believe Ugta is correct - he is paid per diem, not an annual salary.

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And Per Diem means he's getting paid.
This man is not going to be here.
Why is it when you folks are presented with a fact that you have to question it instead of questioning why this board is paying this retiree to train for his next 'situation' ?

Tsu Dho Nimh

Again, because ODE expects all CURRENT superintendents to be trained now. How long he stays after the training does not matter.

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Fred Fox's contract calls for a yearly evaluation.
Why hasn't Fred Fox been evaluated for the last 2 years ?

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When Tim Sowecke, (with the help of attorney Markling), got the paperwork ready to give the OEC, (Ohio Education Commission), the Markling report.. He needed a witness. Donna 'Hastings' Greene signed the paperwork. She knew Sowecke was going to give the OEC the Markling report. Scott Slocum, John Caporini and Kevin Asher had no knowledge of this action.

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Food for thought..

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Who doesn't want the truth printed here ?
Why would you attempt to censure what I have written ? Did it hit too close to home ?

I am outlining a conspiracy. I really don't care if others on here believe it, but you are involved in the community and I would appreciate if you had the truth to rely on in your involvement.

Tsu Dho Nimh

???????? Seriously asking...What are you talking about?

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Someone tried to get my account of Tim Sowecke having Ms. Donna Hastings/Greene sign as a witness in his delivery of the Markling report to the OEC deleted.

I am not making anything up. I know what is going on. Fred Fox is the fall guy for a board that is being controlled by others. No matter what you think Fred Fox did, or did not do, he has undergone a major anal exam during this 'trial'. And.. the result of the 'trial' is that Fred Fox will be back to work and then there is going to be a purge.

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You are by far the most intellectual person who posts here. You do your homework. My statements above are all true. They outline the conspiracy.

The Register won't write the true story.

I will continue to post the truth.


The only "facts" are what goes on in public meetings. Everything else is just what you, and anyone else on either side, are being told. You lost your crediblity a long time ago, before the emails were published, when you insisted your buddy was involved in a professional mentor/mentee relationship. I haven't believed you since.

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Well, JustYou..
Since I am the one stating the 'facts' and actually have something to add to the 'conversation.. what is it you ever bring here ?

I do admit that at that time I believed the relationship to just be mentor/mentee. Unfortunately that was not the case, but the fact that it ended and Fred Fox made peace with his family is the only affermation I need to continue to believe in him as a superintendent. The 'affair' was none of my business, or anyone else's for that matter. It was Fred Fox's business and a group of people decided to make it all of our business.

So.. If my credibility is tarnished in your eyes, that is too bad.. When it is all said and done you will realize who told you the truth.

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And what happens in public meetings is only what they want you to see.

The REAL business is done behind closed doors and you usually don't get a chance to hear/see it.

I'm giving you a glimpse of what is REALLY going on.

I really don't care if any individual does not believe it. I have no secret agenda. Fred Fox is innocent of anything the Huron Board of Education has accused him of. Simple. Get used to hearing that.

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Someone is having my comments removed.

Apparently, what I am saying is hit a little too close to home ?

I'm sorry if it makes you uncomfortable to talk about who is trying to ruin a man's career and good name.

Just keep reporting them and I'll keep writing them.

The TRUTH will eventually get out in a much more public forum.

Try erasing that.


You might have exceeded your allocated storage space ?

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I am not going to give my opinion on this blog until the final decision is made on the questional date of March 11. I respect everyone's opinion, and that's all it is, regarding what is going on in Huron. The majority of people over there are honest and good citizens that care about the community. The problem that I have discovered is, not everyone is as honest and truthful as to what they think they are. The money that is missing from the sale of tickets at sporting events and the consession stand has been going on for years. Watch out Huron, do you really know how honest your neighbor is?


Sold, I think you are just trying to cover up what Fred did,(like Asher) and try to turn it on other people. Why dont you just let the truth prevail. Quit blowing up the blogs with all this garbage, sit back and let it unfold.

There you go again

I'm with you on that comment. What facts "Sold" doesn't list are the ethics of being an adminstrator or teacher. Maybe he could read a school employye's contract to know what Freddie did was ethically wrong (emails, affairs on school time, favoritism with Kalahari, whatever). Reading an employee's contract would confirm that.


It's time for a county school system. Lets save the tax payer and decrease administration costs.

Dudley Do-Right

Sold, I can't believe you are complaining about a current acting superintendent attending professional development. He is charged with running the school district so he better stay current. I am glad you are not on the board of education, your comments about being 70 would land the district in an age discrimination lawsuit.

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hahaha.. His age directly goes to the fact that no one else would take the job.. lol Dudley.. Go do right where you know something. He is charged to fill a spot.. and not for long, thank God.

Might have a good idea there. Of course the districts now all belong in the county district. They just have seperate control.

Silvia and There you go Somewhere Else-
Neither of you has added anything ? There is no ethics claus in Fred Fox's contract genius. And Silvia.. Don't tell me what to do.. I'm busy entertaining here.. lol

Where's Spin and Sin ?
Where we going tonight, pal ?
TDN.. 69.. You guys in ?

Sit n Spin

I was hangin with my lady friend with 2 tooths ! Once again you were a no show ! Ain't nobody got time for this :) This is like beating a dead fox....boring ! The winds of change are coming my friend, they are a comin !