Markling gets payday in Huron's Fred Fox probe

A lawyer whose report divided the school board and the community got paid $90,000 by the school district despite concerns about his invoices.
Jessica Cuffman
Mar 7, 2013

Click the links below to review the Markling invoices, summaries, notes and letter to Markling.

Attorney Matt Markling reduced some charges to Huron Schools for the investigation after another school attorney questioned details on his itemized statements, according to documents released by a Huron school board member.

But before any board members could ask the district's long-time attorney, Dane Gaschen, to review the last of the six invoices to the district for work rendered during the past year, the split board voted last month to pay the balance of his $90,000 bill.

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Markling submitted the bills in June, July, October, November and February, racking up thousands in taxpayer debt as one school board member — Kevin Asher — fought to keep from paying the original $50,000 bill for the Markling report.

The 50-page Markling Report divided the community and led to Superintendent Fred Fox's firing. The report questioned his relationship with a district vendor, expenses from a trip to Arizona and use of school time and computers to conduct an extramarital relationship.

Now, more than a year after launching the investigation, one part of the saga is nearing a climax with a Department of Education hearing officer’s recommendation regarding Fox's termination due on Monday. The report from hearing officer Harry Taich will recommend whether Fox should be fired or reinstated to his position.

Meanwhile, Asher continues to question the validity of the Markling Report, the invoices and the decisions that led to Marking's involvement. 

The Markling invoices include time billed for work he did to make sure he got paid. He also charged for work defending a lawsuit filed by Asher, without any apparent authorization from the board, and billed for time spent reading newspaper articles, editorials and letters to the editor about the Fox case.

The invoices, summaries and letters are linked below. 

Comments

Tsu Dho Nimh

I like your new name. What does the HH stand for, High Horse? LOL Just kidding around with you, Sold.

Huron_1969

I thought it meant Helping Hands

Tsu Dho Nimh

That's even better!

Sit n Spin

Hahaha ! Busted !!!

Julie R.

Markling reduced some of his charges after a school attorney questioned details on some of the charges, but before the charges were reviewed the board agreed to pay him? Now THAT sure was stupid! The citizens of Huron should demand to see the itemized billing statements and if the charges aren't warranted, maybe the citizens should file a lawsuit.

Justme...

Nope Julie. You've got that backwards. The charges were reduced before the board voted to pay it. That was in the paper a couple of articles ago.

Julie R.

That's not what this article says.

Justme...

Hmm, you're right, but that's how it happened. Look at the date on the letter. The article is a bit misleading.

Huron_1969

Delaying payment to a law firm has the same ramifications as other industries, auto repair, boat dockage, etc. The garage or marina will charge you a storage fee while waiting for payment... while a lawyer reads emails and blogs. Either way, your invoice grows daily. This dysfunctional board has dropped the ball many times, no performance reviews on Fox, mis-managing their business engagement with Markling, and everything in between.

Fred Fox opened Pandora's Box.... sure hope it was worth it Fred !

HHGUY

Examine each invoice closely and you be the Judge to determine if costs are justified. Board President is Slocum and Board Member is Sowecke. Who do you think is running this ship?

Huron_1969

Didn't say it's justifiable, but it is the way many businesses operate and the dysfunctional board didn't manage it

Who is running the ship is a good question.... this group has to be as divided and confused as the US Senate & Congress

Julie R.

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

berlinrdgang

Right or wrong, this is gonna cost us Huron tax payers alot. If Fox wins, he more than likely will take his money and move on. We as tax payers will have to pay his back salary ( on top of the huge salary we are paying his substitute), his lawyer fees, plus the schools. all this on top of 90k the board has paid Markling. This will cost the school system and tax payers 100's of thousands and will put the district back in finacal trouble. Then they will need another levy or our kids will lose sports. and by the way, there is no way in hell I will ever vote "yes" on another school levy with these clowns running the school!

Rod Farva

Laughing all the way to the bank! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahbwaahahaha

Informed

I do believe that Fox has been paid during this, so there should be no back pay. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought at first the board wasn't going to pay him pending the investigation, but shortly after his suspension they were told they had to and thus began paying him.

Tsu Dho Nimh

If I remember correctly, the board reversed the suspension without pay to a suspension with pay after the June meeting. In September, after Mr. Murray gave his interesting performance and Fred Fox had an opportunity to address his charges, the board suspended Mr. Fox without pay with a 3-2 vote.

HHGUY

I am posting this tonight on this blog even though it has been posted on the “Wants Suit Dismissed” blog. Ya I know it’s over and over but I think we have some “thick” heads to get through. I think it’s very important that those who did not tune into the other blog understand how far off SOWecke and his attorneys have missed the target. I can’t wait for the real fun to begin. Think about it – Fred wins Monday, the Board attorneys back out, and SOWecke is stuck alone to defend himself. $2.8 million is a lot of money. A single deposition can cost $5K to $8K. Good luck Tim – we hope your pockets are deep.

Fred is in a win-win – he either gets damages from the Huron School District and Sowecke or Brickler & Eckler. Either way it’s a win.

SOWecke made a big mistake, big! During the May 22 executive session the Board did agree to take the report to the OEC. They also agreed that Dane Gaschen would take the lead and investigate how to move forward with the OEC. The Board was very sensitive to the fact that this action could potentially make this a Public Record. That is why they chose this direction (using Gaschen). Sowecke was present during this discussion and was very aware of the risk he was taking when he ventured off on his own and also aware this was not the direction that the Board agreed to.

In SOWecke’s affidavit, he states: “I assumed the physical task of transmitting the Markling Report to the Ohio Ethics Commission”. All should know what happens when you “assume” something. He assumed unauthorized authority.

Subsequent to approving Resolution 6335 to turn the information over to the OEC on May 22, the Board did not, by vote, delegate authority to Mr. Sowecke to take the lead role in delivering this report to the OEC. Please go to the Huron web site and read the resolution. Sowecke had no Board authority to take this action.

Huron Board Policy BBAA reads as follows:
BOARD MEMBER AUTHORITY

“Because all powers of the Board lie in its action as a group, individual members should exercise their authority over District affairs only as they vote to take action at a legal meeting of the Board. An individual Board member has power only when the Board, by vote, has delegated authority to him/her.”

Here are a few other policies he broke:

Board Policy BBF
SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER ETHICS

“It is unethical for a board member to personally assume unauthorized authority.”

Board Policy BBF-E
BOARD MEMBER CODE OF ETHICS

“While serving as a member of my Board of Education, I accept the responsibility to improve the public education. To that end I will recognize that as an individual Board member I have no authority to speak or act for the Board”.

Accordingly, Mr. Sowecke acted on his own and did not have Board authorized power to deliver this document to the OEC. He violated Policy BBAA, BBF, BBF-E and the ORC.

Mr. Sowecke contacted the OEC, had Mr. Markling assist in filling out paper work and then hand delivered the documents to the OEC on June 6.

This was despite the warning that Mr. Gashen provided in an email written on June 4 regarding breaking attorney-client privilege. On June 6th -- on his way back from the OEC meeting in Columbus, Mr. Sowecke called President Slocum and advised him that the Markling report was delivered to the OEC. This was the first knowledge that Mr. Slocum had regarding this matter.

Furthermore -- it is absolutely true that the OEC always will keep all investigations and material used confidential. The issue here is that "delivering" the privileged document is the act that makes it a Public Record. Handing the document off to another outside the client circle is the issue. This is what opened the door. Dane Gaschen is a very good, experienced attorney from a well-established firm and would not make this elementary mistake.

Also there are emails in the system from Slocum that say that Gashen has the lead on this matter, not Sowecke. So there you have it, Sowecke again thought he was bigger than the system. I also can't believe that Sowecke's attorney's missed all of above.

Can’t wait till Monday!

Julie R.

A single deposition can cost 5K to 8K? Where in the world did you ever come up with THAT figure? Depositions can cost anywhere between $125.00 up to $1,000.00 at the most. It all depends on how much coaching snake attorneys have to do ahead of time to teach their client to say: "Duh, I don't remember."

nobodyfromnowhere

Since the BOE released the report they are on the hook for damages from releasing a private document that by law shouldn't have been, even if their actions were the result of bad advice from their counsel. This means Fox sues the BOE for the release and the BOE would have to sure their lawyers for legal malpractice. No matter what I see this dragging on for years.

Tsu Dho Nimh

This scenario reminds me of an old friend. Can't wait till Monday,either, Sold.

HHGUY

Correct TDN. No pay. So Mr. Fox will be paid back pay, his attorney fees and damages. Plus remember Fernbaugh is getting paid $170K and working 6 hours a day. Why would anyone in Huron ever renew a levy? Plus when this is all over - wait till I blow out some major emails that reveal all.

Tsu Dho Nimh

I agree with one point that you made, Sold. Fred Fox should sue the law firm of Brickler and Eckler for giving bad advice that made his private investigation public. Hopefully, he is compensated. Having said that, it does not change what he did and I believe he will be disciplined severely. Dane Gashan's mistake does not make the contents of the report false or give Fred a "get out of jail free" card.

Dudley Do-Right

Public record or not public record. Sowecke or Gashan takes the lead. Drive the report or mail the report. Pay the law firm or shaft the law firm. HHGUY or Sold.

None of this changes or justifies the inappropriate behavior of Mr. Fox.

UgtaBkdnMe

Sandbar parking lot or Phil's Inn.

Dudley Do-Right

Seriously UgtaBkdnMe what is your stage name? I want front row seats at your next comedy show or do you just write for others. I love your sense of humor.

UgtaBkdnMe

If there are some major emails out there that reveal all, why do you need to be the one putting them out there? Doesn't Fox have an attorney? Isn't it his job to put the truth out there? Do the emails prove that he didn't have an affair during regular board office hours? Do they prove that he didn't conduct an affair using his school email? Is there evidence that supports that he would not know what are acceptable travel expenses or that he did submit a vacation day request and someone else forgot to dock him? What good are the emails after it's all over? Please enlighten me !

Huron_1969

Maybe they will magically appear just like the tools !

Tsu Dho Nimh

Isn't is ironic that the tools magically appear but the school bus magically disappears?

Huron_1969

Abracadabra

Informed

Thank you TDN, for correcting my mistake about the backpay. I forgot all about the follow up.

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