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Published: Saturday, 6/29/2013

Court restores jobless benefits for fired educator

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BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Martin Martin
NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

BELLEVUE, Ohio — A state appellate court has overturned the decision of Judge Roger Binette denying unemployment benefits to former Bellevue City Schools Superintendent William “Bud” Martin, Jr.

The decision, released Friday by the 6th District Court of Appeals in Toledo, reverses the 2011 judgment in a complaint filed by the school district in Huron County Common Pleas Court against Mr. Martin.

The action stems from Mr. Martin’s dismissal in 2010 after the school board said he had violated the district’s policy on sexual harassment and created a hostile workplace. The Ohio Unemployment Compensation Review Commission ruled he had been fired without cause and was entitled to unemployment compensation benefits.

Judge Binette, an Erie County Common Pleas judge, was assigned to the case and the unlawful termination lawsuit that Mr. Martin filed against the school district.

According to the appellate decision, Judge Binette found in favor of the school district in both cases, ruling first on affirming Mr. Martin’s firing and then reversing the review commission’s decision to award benefits.

“It would be incongruous to find here that the Bellevue [board of education] did not have just cause to terminate Martin,” the judge wrote in his opinion.

However, the three-judge panel said Judge Binette wrongly tied the decision he made in upholding Mr. Martin’s firing to the school board’s complaint for denying jobless benefits.

“A court may not take judicial notice of proceedings in other cases even in those instances in which the cases are between the same parties before the same court,” wrote Judge Arlene Singer. “Moreover, the common pleas court sits as an appeals court in these matters and shall hear the appeal on the certified record provided by the commission.”

The appeals judges also said the hearing officer’s decision to award benefits was supported by “competent credible evidence.”

Mr. Martin, 55, of Olmsted Falls, Ohio, was placed on unpaid leave in 2009, along with his assistant, Darrell Hykes. They were accused of sexually harassing female employees.

Both men appealed the board’s plans to fire them, and their cases were reviewed by separate hearing officers from the Ohio Department of Education.

While a hearing officer upheld Mr. Hykes’ termination, Victor Kademenos concluded Mr. Martin did not sexually harass female employees and did not create a hostile workplace. However, the school board rejected the hearing officer’s decision and terminated the superintendent.

According to the appellate decision, the hearing officer for the Unemployment Review Commission found Mr. Martin’s behavior did not constitute sexual harrassment and that the school district didn’t have just cause to fire him.

The hearing officer’s decision was based on a review of a 1,075-page transcript of the education department hearing and Mr. Martin’s sworn testimony.

Nancy Beier, Bellevue schools treasurer, said the school district would not comment. Mr. Martin and his attorney, Dennis Pergram, could not be reached for comment.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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