UPDATE: State referee says Fred Fox should be reinstated with full pay

Read the referee's report here from a state department of education hearing officer who delivered a 53-page report this morning that appears to exonerate fired Huron Schools superintendent Fred Fox.
Alissa Widman
Mar 11, 2013

Click here to read the referee's report.

The Huron school board wrongfully fired superintendent Fred Fox, according to an Ohio Department of Education hearing officer.

Board members received a report Monday recommending they reinstate Fox with full back pay, a move that could cost the district $100,000 or more if approved.

School officials refused to release the report, contending it was not a public record, but Fox's attorney, Patrick Murray, provided the Register a copy.

In the 53-page report, state hearing officer Harry Taich said the school board failed to provide "substantial, reliable and probative evidence" to terminate Fox last year.

"In my opinion, after hearing all of the testimony in this matter, it was quite apparent to this referee that personal feelings appeared to replace sound judgment," Taich stated in the report.

In June, the board voted 3-2 to fire Fox for his alleged misdeeds, including an improper business relationship with a district vendor, improperly seeking reimbursements for a trip to Arizona and an extramarital affair on school time.

The board contended the behavior was detrimental to Huron Schools, but Taich said this wasn't the case.

"The district failed to establish by credible evidence that Mr. Fox's inappropriate relationship with the other school district principal hampered his effectiveness as a superintendent," the report stated. "On the contrary, the overwhelming evidence did establish that the district has thrived under his leadership."

The board is expected to take action on Fox's termination at its monthly meeting next week. An executive session to review the state's recommendation is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, with no action planned until the regular board meeting three days later.

Board members Kevin Asher and John Caporini, who voted against Fox's firing, said at last month's meeting they would vote in favor of the state's recommendation — no matter what it said.

After reading Taich's report, Asher said he hopes the entire board will do the same and "move on." He encouraged community members to attend Tuesday's meeting to voice their opinions on the matter.

"We have budget issues, negotiations with our classified staff union and more important things to be worrying about than this nonsense," Asher said. "This has taken a year away from us doing the job we were elected to do. We need to get back to the business of this school."

Board president Scott Slocum and board member Tim Sowecke did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

Register reporter Jessica Cuffman contributed to this story.

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Want to go?

What: Huron school board meeting

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 19

Where: Shawnee Elementary School cafeteria

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Fox timeline

•February 2012 — Board meets with attorney Matt Markling to discuss allegations made against superintendent Fred Fox, including an improper business relationship with a district vendor, improperly sought reimbursements for a trip to Arizona and an extramarital affair on school time.

•May — Markling delivers 50-page report to board.

•June 19 — Board suspends Fred Fox and votes to start termination proceedings against him.

•June 20 — Markling report is released as a public record.

•June 28 — Board member Kevin Asher files lawsuit to keep board from paying Markling bill.

•Sept. 6 — Fox's attorney, Patrick Murray, answers 23 allegations against Fox that the board says warrants his termination.

•Sept. 12 — Fox files a lawsuit against board member Tim Sowecke, alleging defamation and libel and demanding more than $2.5 million in damages.

•January 2013 — Fox's closed-door termination hearings end.

•Feb. 13 — Asher's lawsuit is dismissed.

•Feb. 18 — Board approves paying full amount of $90,000 Markling bill.

•March 11 — Ohio Department of Education's hearing officer recommends reinstating Fox with full back pay.

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Click here for the ePaper or buy a Register at a newsstand near you to learn what's next for Fred Fox and the Huron school board. Check back here at sanduskyregister.com for updates as they become available. 

Comments

There you go again

His employment contact DOES spell out that educators are held to a higher standard than other contracts. Enough!

Tsu Dho Nimh

I agree with you. There is something to be said about setting guidelines from this point forward.

Wald

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

Still Sold

You are correct Mr/Ms Wald !

Perkins2060

We'll trade you Gunner for Fox. Please?

Huron_1969

Gunner vs Fox in the Thunderdome.... Gotta keep some sense of humor

Tsu Dho Nimh

Good one!

Still Sold

hahaha..

Lil DAB

lol

good old boy

Didnt I just say that ?

Dudley Do-Right

So the moral of the story ... since Fred Fox led the district to an excellent rating on the report card and had outstanding past performance reviews he can do whatever he wants without a consequence.

I hope the Huron teachers' union remembers all of this ... if you don't file grievances and if you don't speak up you make him look good. By the way, use your email inappropriately, engage in an affair during working hours, forget to submit sick or personal days, and request for reimbursements you are not entitled to, after all your Board of Education and ODE just set precedence. This is acceptable behavior and you can't be reprimanded for it .... as long as your test scores are up.

good old boy

yep, kind of like win a lot of football games and your King ...... Only in Huron ....keep trying to have it both ways

Dudley Do-Right

I am not familiar with the story behind the football coach but have read many references to the coach and an affair. If a football coach had an affair during working hours and used school resources to conduct this affair, then there should have been some type of disciplinary action. No one should be above the rules, and just because one person got away with it doesn't mean others should be given carte blanche to do the same.

Perkins2060

Is she hot?

good old boy

not sure where your from Dudley, but you obviously dont know the inner relations between certain board member and coach. Kind of funny to see the double standard you talk about play out and act like they know nothing.

Still Sold

Apparently, Dud.. That has been the rules all along. Better take a history lesson in Huronomics before posting like you have no clue.

TaxRaider

The Board must accept the recommendation to reinstate Mr. Fox, otherwise, turmoil and law suits will continue. Someone said in an earlier post, if I were the three board members I would resign. They have good intentions and high standards and evidently they must compromise their ethics to be a "good" board member. The stress and hassles of doing the right thing simply isn't worth it in Huron, Ohio.

Tsu Dho Nimh

I was disturbed by the section of the report that discussed the AZ trip. I do not believe for a moment that the board discussed the rental car or extra days before the trip in a public forum. If it was, why were the costs not part of the purchase requistion? Weis should not have reimbursed anything that was not included in the request. I also do not believe that Mrs. Green or Mr. Slocum even knew what Weis reimbursed. This was nothing more that three members discussing amongst themselves what they would pay for off the record. How convenient that Fox, Weis, Asher, Bulea and Caporini remember it the same way.

Retiree

People keep saying that the three board should resign. If it wasn't for them, the corruption would still be going on within the system. If you Huronites only knew what went on the last ten years at your expense, you would be singing a different song. The State Auditor needs to examine the books for the last ten years. I would hope the three board members would make that request. I would not put much faith in the decision made by the neutral party, he is not an arbitrator. He is just an attorney. I believe that in this day,if you want to progress in your profession, you listen closely to people that have friends in high places. That is why our judicial system is so corrupt.

good old boy

just like you listened when you were on !

nobodyfromnowhere

The state auditor routinely reviews the books and had reviewed the accounts for the time of the Arizona trip and had found nothing amiss. Most arbitrators are attorneys. At least you admit he is neutral.

good old boy

whats a matter ? Everybody go to bed early tonight ? Or did you all lose your appitite ?

Tsu Dho Nimh

There sure seems to be a lot of corruption at the board office. Who is giving out the information at the board office? Someone is and Fred Fox supporters sure knew was going on the whole time, and I'm not talking about information that his attorney would have. Someone inquires about a bus, then the person gets a nasty phone call regarding his records request. The phone call was from a family member of the person who is said to have taken the bus. Someone asks about about the deputy superintendent's pay, then Sold is on the blogs letting the requestor know that there isn't anything he can't find out. But is was FREE, MAN! The treasurer in an email (posted on another blog) threatens to call the police because he questioned his professionalism. What's up with that? And did you guys see in the paper today (page 8 I think) where the treasurer reported a file as stolen to the police only to find it later in his office after misplacing it? He has it together, doesn't he? Then we have either Asher or Caporini releasing the Markling bill even though, according to the treasurer, is not a public document. And don't dare question the board publicly or Nancy Bulea will have her husband check you out and attempt to cause problems with your employer (didn't work, did it?).

Wald

What's hilarious to me is that all the whiners saying not to listen to the Ethics Committee's ruling would be singing a different tune if they had ruled the other way. At least have the courage to admit you were WRONG, as pointed out by a NEUTRAL investigative committee!

Still Sold

Right on, Wald.
I really thought, for some reason, that the whiners would have more class. A neutral party found FOR Fred Fox. Over.

Now.. Let's get back to who caused this mess.

underthebridge

I wonder if Fred Fox is trying to preserve his license and his ability to work until he is able to collect full pension. An exoneration from the ODE may provide that for him. They aren't ruling to see if his conduct was unethical. They are ruling on the termination.

I wonder if the Ohio Ethics Commission will rule differently? If they exonerate Fred Fox, then the school district has a boatload of problems. If OEC rules that his conduct was not ethical, does that overturn the decision of the ODE?

Tsu Dho Nimh

You are absolutely right...the report did not say he was innocent of wrong doing. As far as this report is concerned, it is just a recommendation. Before going into the hearing, all parties understood it would not be binding. The board can accept or reject its recommendation. It will be interesting what the board will propose and how each member will vote.

nobodyfromnowhere

I believe that the Board will vote to reinstate him. There is just WAY to much to lose if the don't follow the recommendation. My understanding is that the District's insurance company has already told the board that if they vote against the recommendation they will immediately drop the District's insurance policy. This would leave the District responsible for all costs incurred, including but not limited to: lawyers fee, court fees, judgement costs, settlement fees, opposing counsel's fees and of course any fees and/or judgements resulting from a possible suit related to the release of the Markling Report. These cost could easily run into the seven figures and would come from the general fund. Also getting insurance again would be extremely expensive for the District creating additional costs there. Voting against the recommendation would be suicidal. A smart board would get together on Saturday and come to the decision to unanimously vote to reinstate him, though I doubt that will happen. My guess is that it will be a 3-2 vote to reinstate with Caporini and Asher obviously voting for it and 1 of the others (Green or Slocum) sucking it up and voting in favor to keep the district from financially imploding. I would also expect the the District's insurance company will seriously pursue some sort of negotiated settlement with Fox. This will cost them a pretty penny but if it drags out and the Ethics Committee comes back and rules in favor of Fox (which given the lack of evidence presented in this hearing is a distinct possibility) then the District's boat load of problems quickly becomes an Ore Boat load that will take a couple of Hulletts to clean out. I seriously doubt that Fox will ever actually work another day as Huron City School Superintendent, and given the publicity swirling around this fiasco finds a good replacement will be difficult especially if the current board makeup remains in place.

Still Sold

Exonerated. Say it slowly so it sinks in.

nobodyfromnowhere

I doubt the Ethics Commission will rule differently. The board simply did not come close to presenting a preponderance of the evidence on the alleged ethics violation. It's simply not there. The board would be best to quickly come to a settlement with Mr. Fox before it gets any worse for them, and yes it can get much worse.

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