BELLEVUE, Ohio - A hearing officer for the Ohio Department of Education concluded that suspended Bellevue City Schools Superintendent William "Bud" Martin didn't sexually harass staff members and shouldn't be fired.
In a 16-page report, Victor P. Kademenos, who reviewed Mr. Martin's appeal of his termination, said though some of Mr. Martin's comments to female employees "could be considered crass or rude," they did "not rise to the level of sexual harassment" or create a hostile work environment.
Mr. Martin said he was cleared.
"I've been exonerated of all the charges and allegations, and what I want is to be made whole," he said yesterday. "Obviously I've been accused of these things, and here's an independent hearing officer from the state who's come in and said, 'No, this is not what it is.'
"I've been doing this over 20 years," he continued. "This is my career. This is my life. I certainly want to move ahead."
Mr. Martin, 52, had two years left on a three-year contract with Bellevue City Schools when the board suspended him and his assistant, Darrell Hykes, with pay on July 9. On July 15, the school board voted to suspend both men without pay and move toward terminating them.
Mr. Martin and Mr. Hykes appealed, and a separate hearing officer concluded last month that the board was justified in firing Mr. Hykes for "conduct that is totally inappropriate, outrageous, flagrant, hostile, discriminatory, and certainly unacceptable in a public school setting."
The board accepted the report and formally terminated Mr. Hykes Dec. 17. He filed an appeal yesterday in Huron County Common Pleas Court.
Dan Mason, attorney for the school board, said the board now can accept or reject the hearing officer's report on Mr. Martin's conduct. It has scheduled a special meeting for 7:30 a.m. Wednesday where it intends to meet in executive session with legal counsel to discuss its options in the case.
"I think the hearing officer agreed that these things did happen, but his opinion that it didn't rise to the level of sexual harassment is, in my opinion, one man's opinion," Mr. Mason said. "The board knows its own policies. It enacted these policies and enforces these policies, and they may have a different opinion."
Mr. Martin, for his part, said the comments cited in the investigation were not sexual in nature but were taken out of context or "were hyped and made into something they were not."
He questioned the motives of those who brought the complaints against him.
"It's very troubling to me because I've spent an entire career in education. I've been a compliance officer in other districts," he said, adding that in Bellevue, "certainly I'm the new guy in the new town. I'm not going to try to be cute with anybody."
The job was his first superintendency. Mr. Martin worked as director of pupil services in the Strongsville City Schools, where Mr. Hykes had been an elementary principal.
Mr. Mason said Mr. Martin's contention that he was exonerated and did nothing wrong indicates "he doesn't get it."
"To make so many personal comments about women's eyes and clothes and sexy feet, to make all these comments shows he doesn't get it and to say that he feels exonerated shows he still doesn't get it," Mr. Mason said.
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A hearing officer for the Ohio Department of Education concluded that suspended Bellevue City Schools Superintendent William "Bud" Martin didn't sexually harass staff members and shouldn't be fired.