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.

*
Click here for the e*Paper or get a copy of the Register at a newsstand near you to find out what might happen next week after a ruling comes from a state education official.
*

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

Centauri

No wonder that attorney is smiling all the way to the bank.

Gardenman

I don't think it fair to hold one's vote for a renwal levy based on what the Board did in this situation. I hate to hurt the children's edcation because of the HCS Board of Education actions. BUT it sure does not mean I have to return one or any of them to their seats when they come up for election. I think at the next election those up for reelection will find a "house cleaning" by the voters. There is no way the system can move forward based on the current situation.

Gardenman

Maybe Attorney Matt Markling could be encouraged to contribute some of his $90,000 back to HCS and we could you know put something up..........to remember him by.......a tree or alas a statue at Muron Memorial Stadium. That way we could always remember how Huron kids got taken in by the fast talking attorney who came to town one day. Just like the medicine man who came to towns in the old west with a "magic potion" in his briefcase.

We certainly don't have Todd Nelson at Kalhari to drop a half million dollars in our lap any more.......do we???

nobodyfromnowhere

I think the BOE burned that bridge then dynamited the remains!!

OccamsShavingCream

With all of these school districts blowing through money, I think there is a golden opportunity for synergy. Perkins wants to build stuff. Huron loves allowing personal feuds to enter into the public arena. Why not work together? Huron should send a few dollars to Perkins (Huron has plenty of money, they paid a guy to read the paper) and Perkins can build a thunderdome. It's not a dream school, but it's a building and that's a start. When the fine people of Huron decide to destroy one another, they can engage in brutal hand to hand combat. It could work. Let's say (hypothetically of course) a Huron district employee gets into a feud with the lover of a board member. Rather than bringing in police, lawyers, and state agencies, the whole thing could be handled at the thunderdome, easy peasy. Between admission and concessions, neither district would ever need a levy again. A win for the people!

Gladiatorial combat isn't the only area where these two beleaguered BOEs could find common ground. Huron is apparently in the business of firing people for work related affairs. That's a lot of job openings. And Perkins is looking to cut teachers. Hear that laid off teachers? You won't even need to break your lease. Another win for the people.

It's time to think outside of the box.

Julie R.

Like.

Julie R.

Hey SR, why did you remove my comment when all I did was give a perfect example of why a bill from an attorney should never be paid (common sense) without reviewing the itemized charges. All I did was tell about an attorney that sent me a $10,000.00 bill once and the charges were all bogus .... like a $2,000.00 charge for "reviewing records" from a Huron bank after telling me the bank's main headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio had refused to honor his subpoena.

Libel and defamation is only something that isn't true.

nobodyfromnowhere

I must admit I have watched this soap opera play out from afar, and found it to be interesting. It has always seemed to me that the Board of Education's handling of this situation was a little off the reservation from the very beginning. An outside law firm who has never done business in the area, brought on for something this important? Because it offered 10 free hours? Then I heard rumors about how the public was told law firm was found and hired may not have been the exact truth. Then the law firms point of contact with the board is a member with an apparent ax to grind? Something this important it should have been the board President. Then the rush to suspend with out pay, then opps we can't do that and being forced to reverse it. Then there were rumours about how the investigation was conducted, which if true meant it was definitely not up to basic standards (no recordings of interviews that were conducted?) Then I read the final report which was pretty shoddy at best. Then the questionable way the report was delivered to the Ethics Commission by the same member with an apparent ax to grind? Then the improper public release of the investigation report. And finally an very questionable $90000 lawyers bill which includes a whole bunch of questionable charges and a lot of apparent contact with an unspecified board member. Even worse when asked by the board to tell them who the board member is they instead simply convert it to a "no charge" thus creating more questions and innuendo.

For an investigation such as this one to be valid and be accepted by those who matter most, the public's who paid for it and one way or another hired all those involved, it MUST be handled quietly, quickly, thoroughly, completely, ethicly, professionally, and above reproach. There cannot be ANY appearance of outside or internal meddeling or interference. Unfortunately this one was none of the above!! It was questionable from the inital hiring of the outside firm and just went down hill from there. In the end the school board will have gotten a report that at best is shoddy, questionable, unprofessional; at worst is a predetermine hatchet job by a group of board members using the taxpayers money and school districts good will and reputation for their own personal vendetta. Either way this has already cost the schools almost $600,000 in bills and lost income with no end in sight. So far the only winner here is Marking to the tune of an excessive $90,000 payday. The losers are numerous: Fred Fox, the BOE, the city its self, the school district, and most of all the kids who all of the former were supposed to be putting ahead of anything else but failed to do so miserably!

OccamsShavingCream

Yep. How difficult would it be for the BOE to cite the email policy and the emails? How difficult would it be to cite the hours in Fox's contract and produce a date and time of his extra curricular activities?

That cost efficient method of removing Fox fails to provide adequate drama. Violation of policy is boring. Intimidation, bribes, affairs, and the like bring intrigue. This is Huron we're talking about. People have brought legal representation to meetings about volunteer lawn cutting in Huron. There was absolutely no way anyone was going to settle for anything less than a complete circus.

I say embrace the chaos. Thunderdome 2013.

HHGUY

nobody -- unbelieveably perfect summary. I will have a good one for later today. Also -- watch and listen to news. You won't believe what happened today.

UgtaBkdnMe

What happened? I waited all day, even turned on Greta Van Sustern for the breaking news.

HHGUY

Last night I spent some time going through the latest Markling invoices and want to share some detail with you and all the taxpayers of Huron. But first a few comments. At the Feb. 18th Board meeting Mr. SOWecke made a statement regarding doing an analysis to determine the total monies spent due to the lack of co-operation of our superintendent. It is important for all to know that at the beginning of this process instead of sitting down with Fox as the Policy Manual and his contract require and just having a face-to-face discussion, the Board instructed Mr. Fox to get an attorney. They would not talk to him unless he got an attorney. They immediately put Fred on the defense and initiated the “unco-operative” relationship. The Board could have accomplished all this by simply following the Board Policy and Fred’s contract. This would have been the “co-operative” approach and would have avoided all the public smearing and cost. To say Fred was not co-operative is wrong. The 3 stooges are the ones who went out and hired Markling for 10 free hours of “training” knowing they were going to utilize him for this investigation. People were in the audience at that Board meeting and will substantiate this. What was discussed at that meeting was that the 10 free hours would be used for special education. Mr. Fox also spoke about having the school’s personnel use the hours for training. It was explicitly stated that this law firm was only to be used for these hours and were not hired to supplant Brickler and Eckler. There was nothing in the motion to expand their involvement. The 3 stooges deceived Mr. Asher and Mr. Caporini and the other administrators into believing that this was just a limited resource. Mr. SOWecke had put in a previous email to Board Members that this firm in no way was to take Brickler and Eckler’s place. And yet, the 3 stooges took it upon themselves to expand Markling’s services without a formal vote of the Board. As a matter of fact Asher and Caporini knew none of this until the March Board meeting (a period of 30 days). Again another major violation of the Sunshine Law.

The first detailed invoice is not published but if it was – you would clearly be able to see how this transgressed and how Slocum, the very next day initiated the investigative process.

This next piece is very important to all the taxpayers and students in Huron. If you look at the fiscal year 2013 latest Budget and forecast (on web site), you will see that going into 2013 there was a beginning cash balance of $7.0 mil. The budgeted year end 2013 ending cash balance is $5.0 mil. That is $2.0 mil in adverse spending. To date, no cost saves have been planned or implemented. If you look at the 5 year forecast, you will see that this adverse spending trend continues. Additionally, there also maybe a significant adverse impact on revenue in the out years based on Gov. Kasich’s plan.

I then looked at the last 2 invoices. Items to note: 1) Sowecke communicated 18 times with Markling. Now remember Huron Board Policy BBAA reads as follows: “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.”

I looked in meeting minutes and I don’t see any public vote giving SOWecke this authority. So we have numerous Sunshine Law violations. Are ya surprised?

Now also know that Markling was not called to testify at the hearing for the District. You would think that if you paid someone $85K to investigate, they would be your star witness. Not in this case.

So Mr. Murray had to call Markling to testify. He did this with three subpoenas. Now look in the detail of the invoice. The Huron Taxpayers paid Markling $2,475 for his efforts to quash these subpoenas. He eventually appeared because the hearing officer called him. Note that for this appearance, the taxpayers paid an additional $1,350. Also note that in the Feb 18th meeting – SOWecke said that the OEC is very secretive and closed mouth about reporting their status, yet in the invoice as part of a $900 charge on 12/3/2012, Markling reports he updated the Board on the Status of OEC and we paid.

One more final point here. In conducting normal business in the District, invoices to be paid are sent to the Treasurer. In this case all these invoices have been sent to Scott Slocum, not Mike Weis. At the Feb 18th meeting, Mike Weis was exposed to this latest invoice at 7:10 PM. He clearly did not have time to check accuracy before SOWecke, Hastings-Green and Slocum pushed payment through. I’m thinking the State Auditor needs to review this from beginning to end, including all the motions (written by Markling, paid for by the District), invoices and supporting materials referenced in invoices. They also may want to drag the Ohio Bar into this mess.

So there you have it – the Huron School District will have deficit spending of $1.6 to $2.0 mil in FY2013, the 3-stooges are recklessly spending money that should be used for the students; $90K for Markling, $170K annualized for Fernbaugh’s 6 hrs. of work, Fred’s back pay, Murrays legal bills, B&E legal bills and Fred’s damages. In the fall they will go to the taxpayer and ask for a renewal levy – for more money.

As SOWecke suggested, Weis did go to the insurance carrier to ask for funds to be “recouped” and he was told that they did not hire Marking for this defense; they hired Calderone and will not pay a dime. Hopefully, this makes it a little clearer as to why they were hiding behind attorney-client privilege. Ha – and to think I told you I wouldn’t be back until the 11th.

Tsu Dho Nimh

Sold, the first detailed invoice is not public record just like the ones posted on-line are not public records. Unlike your boys Asher and Caporini, Tim Sowecke admits, and never denied, turning over the Markling Report. Another difference is that what Tim Sowecke did did not cause the information to become public record. The only people who seem to think that it did is you, the Casherini Twins (had to borrow that one!), and the treasurer. The OEC, the court, and every other attorney involved says it didn't. What the Casherinis did was to intentionally expose private documents to the public in order to discredit somebody. It is clear that they do not play by the rules and was okay that Fred Fox played by his own rules. They are the reason that the other three voted to hire Markling to conduct an investigation. Caporini is the one who stopped the investigation before it could be completed, thus leaving the district with a bill of $50,000 for an incomplete report. It was Keven Asher who filed an injunction to stop payment for the services, which contributed to another $40,000 in expenses. With all of their documented lies, I do not believe for one moment that anyone thought that Markling was providing 10 hours of free service or for any other purpose than to investigate Fred Fox.

UgtaBkdnMe

HelpingHandsGuy,

Why are you looking at detailed billing? They are not public documents. Let me see, who would have access to the documents? Hahahaha !

Huron_1969

Another abracadabra moment

Tsu Dho Nimh

Sold, if the board only agreed to 10 free hours, why was this printed in the Register two days prior to the May 22nd meeting? Another piece of evidence that your two board supporters are not being honest.

"The school board approved a purchase order for up to $10,000 to pay McGowan and Markling Co., but the district has yet to receive any invoices for work performed thus far, treasurer Michael Weis said.

School administrators and the board have refused to say why the law firm was hired, and they refused to discuss any allegations against district employees.

An undated letter -- signed by board president Scott Slocum -- ordered all district employees to cooperate with the investigation, including handing over all documents the law firm requests.

Weis provided the Register with a copy of the purchase order, as well as minutes from the February school board meeting.

The purchase order amount was only an estimate, Weis said, which means the law firm's final bill could be higher or lower."

Darwin's choice

So, are you three above willing to pony up for the levy money that is going to be needed ?

Tsu Dho Nimh

Darwin, I do not associate the investigation with money that is needed for the education of children. What I can say is IF I found out that serious allegations were made against the top administrator and that the board decided not to properly investigate it, I would never vote for a levy while anyone of the 5 were sitting on the board. I still contend that a low key investigation would have taken place if Asher and Caporini would have agreed to thoroughly look into the allegations. Unfortunately, they did not. As one of them shared, "some things just need to be swept under the rug. The district doesn't need the embarrassment."

Huron_1969

Toolgate is a perfect example of hiding the truth and sweeping the facts under the rug. Sadly, Huron schools has a long history of hiding criminal and unethical acts. Fox was foolish enough to get caught red handed and no amount of finger pointing at boards, or treasurers, or attorneys will change what we learned from Fox's emails.... his words, nobody else's

People try to use our convoluted legal system and conflicting bueracratic protocols to their advantage.... but this time there is no hiding the root cause of all this

Julie R.

If the Huron schools have a long history of hiding criminal and unethical acts, that doesn't surprise me. When you live in a county where even the so-called courts of law are well-known for hiding criminal and unethical acts committed by attorneys and financial institutions, what do you expect?

HHGUY

TDN -- It is not news to anyone on this blog that you are a Clone of the 3 Stooges. You cannot see the obvious and come up with your prejudiced views. Many attorneys that have weighed in on this subject disagree with your assessment. Unlike you, I deal with much more than one attorney’s advice. Your quote that Mr. Caporini and Mr. Asher “don’t play by the rules,” is laughable and libelous, especially since the 3 stooges have broken the Sunshine Law on numerous occasions. You must have the “Sun” in your eyes because you surely cannot see what is black and white. Also get your facts straight on why the investigation was stopped. You are way off base, since the Board Members were not getting an update on the cost of the investigation and many interviewees were complaining about the lack of professionalism of the investigation (not letting people tape their interview) and overall shoddiness. Also Mr. Caporini and Mr. Asher contended that Markling was never hired by a formal vote of the Board and that taxpayer dollars were being spent with no control. Your last statement also shows your one-sidedness. Asher and Caporini were not the only ones who thought it was for only 10 hours. Maybe the question should be asked of you – What is your part in this? You have always been against Mr. Fox and have opinions based upon conjecture, hearsay and misinformation. Your information is biased and tainted and Monday will be here soon.

Finally let's cut through the chase -- when I have a dead winner, I like to bet cash, real cash. We'll figure out logistics. Are you for say $400? More if you want.

All -- yes, I will never vote for a levy again in Huron.

Tsu Dho Nimh

Read through my posts, Sold. I am not anti-Fox, I am just thoroughly disgusted with the actions of the good ole boys, the Casherinis. Oh, I think Fred made some pretty poor decisions that started this mess and my opinion has always been that ODE does not treat behaviors that are unbecoming to the teaching profession lightly. I know you will never believe me but I have never met Asher, Slocum, or Green prior to or during this mess and only have had contact with Caporini and Sowecke from being a customer at their counters. Neither one of them know me and I do not know them. Because I do not have a horse in the race, I believe that I can be more objective than you. I just look at the information and come to my own conclusions. Do you remember Kevin Asher's injunction? The first point made was that he is a licensed attorney in Ohio. That is an out-and-out lie. I posted a link back in July where you can verify that. If he will lie about that, why would I be foolish enough to believe anything he says? Also, why is is okay for the Casherinis to provide confidential documents to the Register? Again, they have a different set of rules. Bottom line, if Fred Fox can't stand the heat, he shouldn't have started the fire.

UgtaBkdnMe

TDN,

You're not biased. It just iritates Helping Hands that you can see through all of the BS and lies !

Ακόμη Sold σχετ...

TDN-
HHguy is not me, but sure seems to have information.
And what they are saying makes sense which I am sure will be lost on you SOWecke minions.
(I am only posting to tell you it's not me. I'm waiting for 'the decision' to weigh in as I said I would.)

Tsu Dho Nimh

Ok, then it must be a coincidence that you both say SOWecke and only the two of you refer to Donna Green as Hastings-Green. I will just wait to hear from you on Monday. Around noon, right?

UgtaBkdnMe

HAHAHAHA ! Fred is telling someone that THEY are biased. Now that is rich if I do say so myself ! Of course you're never going to vote for another levy, Fred !

HHGUY

TDN - Take a look at the financial statements. We are in trouble. Why no cost cuts. Ya gotta get way ahead. 6% increase in expenditures. $2.0 mil adverse performance. They are doing nothing but adding to expenditures. How can we afford a Deputy Super who gets paid $170k a year and only works 6 hrs a day. They did no due diligence. Just work 100% on getting rid of Fox. Can't you see how screwed up this. Is Sad. We will be back in fiscal emergency because of this poor leadership. The kids will feel it and the community.

OccamsShavingCream

.

Tsu Dho Nimh

Sold, take a look at the board minutes. February 1, 2012 the board meets in executive session to discuss "investigation of charges/complaints and personnel issues." In the regular February 2012 meeting, the board votes 4-1 to approve McGown and Markling as a legal provider to the district. Shortly thereafter, a purchase order for $10,000 was issued. The firm most definitely was hired. This was not about 10 free hours.

Tsu Dho Nimh

Sold, you are right. Maybe Fred should have owned up to his mistakes, showed some remorse, and appologized for his behavior and everyone could have moved on, but he didn't. That my, blogging friend, is why we are where we are today.

Pages