The former Tecumseh superintendent convicted of stealing more than $40,000 to feed a gambling addiction admitted he spun a web of lies to cover his thefts and casino trips.
Released from the Clark County Jail on Tuesday after six months, Brad Martin wants to make amends with his family and the community he let down while he continues his road to recovery.
“I’m not hiding from my story,” Martin said in an exclusive interview with WHIO News Center 7’s Kate Bartley on Thursday.
It’s the first interview he’s given about his gambling addiction, the actions he took to cover it up and the pain it has caused his family.
Martin hopes by sharing his story, others who are locked in the throes of addiction can be helped.
“If I can save one person from going through what I did,” Martin said. “Getting caught saved my life.”
One thing he can’t say enough to his family, friends, coworkers and the public is, “I’m truly sorry.”
“I’m very sorry that any of this happened to Tecumseh and the community, to the staff. I know I let down the whole community,” he said.
Martin in 2015 admitted to spending more than 300 hours at casinos when he was supposed to be at work, falsifying mileage reports, sick leave and personal leave requests, forging checks, taking cash and deceiving the school district out of thousands over a two-year period.
He was sentenced in August to six months in jail and will now serve five years of probation, including 500 hours of community service.
Martin said he has done everything Judge Richard O’Neill asked him to do — including repaying more than $44,000 from his state retirement fund and more than $9,000 to cover the cost of a special audit prosecutors ordered.
“I want the public to understand, as much as I bled red and black, I would never do anything to hurt this district,” he said. “That was the pinnacle of my life — to be the Tecumseh superintendent. So there had to be something stronger, to leave my wife and my kids and do that to the district.”
‘I knew the weaknesses’
Martin said he told lies on top of lies to cover up his gambling, but takes issue with district leaders’ characterization of him as a bully.
“I never bullied a single person. I just simply went and said, ‘I need this check for this,’ And they wrote me this check,” he said.
Martin used his knowledge of the district accounting practices to steal, such as from the Market Day fundraiser, he said. He knew how that account was set up because he had previously been the principal at that building. He wrote numerous checks to himself from that account, forging the principal’s signature, and wrote checks for employees to cash with promises of iPads and computers that never materialized.
“I knew the weaknesses in the system, but I also know that our lawyer and the treasurer knew what was going on (from the beginning of the investigation) and I believe the assistant superintendent knew because Ms. Schock did tell her what was going on,” Martin said.
He wishes someone would have said something to him earlier in the process.
“Why investigate me when you already know? If I took two cents, that’s too much,” he said. “Somebody should have called me on the carpet then instead of just letting me snowball into this.”
But he doesn’t blame the district.
“I do not blame anyone but myself for what I did while I was the superintendent at Tecumseh,” he said. “No one knew what I was doing at the time I was doing it.”
The News-Sun has previously reported that district leaders and their attorney began investigating Martin during the fall of 2014. The school board was informed about that investigation on Dec. 16, when he was placed on leave.
Martin’s wife questioned school officials about why they hadn’t said anything earlier when she accompanied him to turn over a laptop computer at the board office that day, he said. Their response was, “we thought it would get better,” Martin said.
Assistant Superintendent Paula Crew said in a statement Friday that no one recalls making that statement, but said, “if such a statement were made, it would have referred only to Mr. Martin’s attendance at work.”
The district didn’t report any missing money or alleged thefts to sheriff’s deputies until several days after Martin was placed on leave. And then because School Resource Deputy Scott Cultice learned of the board’s action and went to speak to Crew, according to investigation documents.
His report indicates she was reluctant at first to share details and said she couldn’t say more at the advice of the school’s lawyers.
When initially talking with deputies and BCI agents on Dec. 18, high school Principal Ivan Gehret told them, “This has happened in the past but it was never reported until now,” according to their interview notes.
The district has maintained that no one reported thefts to administrators or the board until after Martin was placed on leave, when the lies began to unravel.
“It took the attorneys, treasurer and the assistant superintendent going to the board on Dec. 16, 2014, with their concerns to stop him. Once Mr. Martin was placed on leave by the board, the stories and reports came rolling in,” Crew’s statement says.
No one delayed reporting their concerns to the board, she said.
“Those people who came forward must not now be blamed that somehow they did not do enough soon enough. That would be to blame the victims – and that is not where the blame should be placed,” Crew said.
Martin also puts that blame on himself.
“I wish someone would have grabbed me earlier and said what in the heck are you doing, but it’s not their fault. It’s my fault,” he said.
Started with something simple
Martin said his descent began with a few trips to a casino in Indiana with his wife.
He started going whenever he happened to be in Cincinnati, and then the Hollywood Casino opened in Columbus in 2012.
“When I went from assistant superintendent to superintendent, it put me in Columbus even more, so I just kept going,” he said.
He’d go to Columbus for a meeting at the Buckeye Association of School Administrators then head to the casino. On another trip to an Indiana casino with his wife, she went to bed and he stayed up gambling all night.
“That’s how it started, and then the thing was, one time I hit something for like four grand or something like that,” Martin said. “Then it was like you can beat this.”
Martin said that part of it was, “just the attraction of chasing that mad money and then I just could not stop. I could put 20, 22 hours (in) without stopping.”
His game was always video slot machines. He never gambled online or bet on sports before the casinos opened locally.
“Everything in the world is shut down, except for me and that machine. It was the greatest time in my life. But at that time in my life, it was like the slot machine was my mistress,” Martin said.
His wife, Jessica Martin, knew nothing.
“He worked very hard to make sure I didn’t know. And when you’re addicted to something, that’s what you do, you cover it up at all costs,” Jessica Martin said. “I know everyone else is thinking the same thing — you lived in the house, how did you not know? But you don’t know because the lies make sense.”
She has gotten over her initial anger, she said, and believes her husband deserved the chance to get better.
After he was placed on leave, Jessica Martin checked her husband into an in-patient treatment facility because he was suicidal.
“For him to get to where that was even an option, I was shocked by that,” she said. “I understand it now… It’s hidden for so long that by the time it comes out, it’s so bad and they’re in so much debt and they’ve broken the law a lot of times and they just can’t handle it and so that’s the solution to the problem.”
Brad Martin said he cheated the community on his services at work more than he physically stole.
The money he took was for paying his bills, he said, because he spent all of his personal money gambling.
“It doesn’t matter if I took one cent or twenty thousand, it’s still wrong,” Brad Martin said. “I mean, I don’t have an excuse for it.”
He denied taking money from his mother-in-law, although subpoenaed bank records showed the account had been drained, including at ATMS in or near casinos. His mother-in-law declined to press charges and died in July.
“I did not gamble with her money,” Brad Martin said.
Becoming a better person
Brad Martin wants to help combat addiction in Ohio, “because I really think it’s going to get worse. I think we’re going to hear about it more.”
There’s no magic words that can be said to an addict to make them realize they have a problem, he said. Other gamblers he’s met are often intelligent people with good jobs just like him.
“Now I can put my story out there and talk to everybody. Give them some hope that you can survive this stuff, and you can get better, and you can become a good citizen and you can become a moral and ethical person again. That’s what I’m about,” Martin said.
People don’t understand how many chances there are to gamble, he said.
He hasn’t wanted to go to a casino since starting treatment, but he said he also hasn’t had a lot of opportunity.
“If you have the urge where you can’t stop, that’s a problem,” he said. “I could not stop, no matter what anybody said to me. Something had to happen, the wheels had to fall off the bus.
“If I save one life, then I feel like my case was worth it.”