Records dump doesn't satisfy critics in Ohio charter flap

By Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press | Posted - Sep. 4, 2015 at 4:11 p.m.



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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Democrats in the Ohio Legislature and some members of the state school board continued Friday to call for an independent investigation into actions of an ousted charter schools director even after volumes of the official's records were turned over to state authorities.

Their call came a day after the state Education Department released nearly 100,000 records to journalists and provided copies to state Auditor Dave Yost and Inspector General Randall Meyer.

Yost's office said the records will be incorporated into an ongoing annual financial audit of the School Choice office, while Meyer's said it doesn't confirm or deny what investigations, if any, are underway.

But Stephanie Dodd said a coalition of school board members she leads that's seeking an outside review into former School Choice Director David Hansen hasn't changed its mind. She said the sheer volume of the records justifies hiring an outside firm.

Rep. Teresa Fedor of Toledo said the absence of any communications between Hansen and Superintendent Richard Ross in the records demands a "deep dive" by someone unassociated with the administration of Republican Gov. John Kasich.

"The complete lack of any public records from Mr. Ross shows that, at best, he is wildly incompetent or, worse, he is deeply involved," Fedor said in a statement.

Hansen resigned July 18, days after acknowledging to the state school board that he had omitted failing grades of online and dropout-recovery schools from the evaluations of charter school sponsors so poor marks wouldn't "mask" successes elsewhere. The inaccurate evaluations, pertaining to five of 64 sponsors, were retracted.

Ross said he was unaware of the omissions until he read about it in the press, citing a "breakdown" in the office as a huge personal disappointment for him as an advocate for tough accountability standards.

Emails show data experts at the department were puzzled by some of Hansen's requests. At times, they alerted him that he lacked the necessary clearances to share data he was requesting outside the agency; at other times, they subtly warned him his suggested treatment of the data was outside Ohio law.

Education Department spokeswoman Kim Norris said the agency had no response to personal allegations against Ross.

Besides providing the documents to investigators, Norris said, "The office moved quickly to rescind the evaluations, and put into place a new internal governance committee to make sure business practices are as strong as they can be. An impartial panel is also reviewing our charter school evaluation system."

Fedor said neither Meyer nor Yost would be fully independent. Meyer was appointed by Gov. John Kasich and Yost is a fellow Republican. Also, Hansen's wife is the governor's presidential campaign manager, and Ross is in Kasich's cabinet.

Yost spokeswoman Brittany Halpin said such allegations are "nothing but politics."

"Auditor Yost has been doing nothing if not leading the charge to reform the charter schools," she said.

Yost and Kasich have also clashed in the past. Yost lodged a high-profile fight for access to the private books of Kasich's signature job-creation office, the privatized JobsOhio, to conduct a compliance audit. The move was criticized by Kasich and fellow Republicans in the Legislature, but JobsOhio complied under protest.

Kasich's spokesman Jim Lynch noted that both Meyer and Yost took oaths to uphold Ohio law.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Julie Carr Smyth

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