Posts Tagged 'Inspector General'

Rep. Murray Urges Thorough Review by Prosecutors of IG Investigation Despite Resignation of State Superintendent Heffner

State Representative Dennis Murray sent a letter to Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and Columbus City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. urging a continued full and thorough investigation into Superintendent Heffner’s actions and whether criminal charges should be brought.  Saturday, Mr. Heffner announced his resignation on the heels of last week’s report by Inspector General Meyer finding wrongdoing by Mr. Heffner. Last year, while serving as interim-Superintendent Mr. Heffner testified before the Senate Finance Committee in favor of legislation that would and did financially benefit Education Testing Services (ETS), with whom he had accepted a job and signed an employment agreement. A copy of Rep. Murray’s letter can be seen below. The full report by Inspector General Meyer can be seen here.

August 7, 2012 

Ron O’Brien
Franklin County Prosecutor
373 S. High Street, 14th Floor
Columbus, Oh 43215

Richard C. Pfeiffer, Jr.
Columbus City Attorney
90 W. Broad Street
Columbus, Oh 43215

Dear Mr. O’Brien and Mr. Pfeiffer:

I write to express my serious concern regarding the report released last week by the Inspector General on the actions of State Superintendent Stan Heffner (Office of the Inspector General Report of Investigation, File ID No.2011-139, hereinafter “Report”).  While media reports have made clear that your office has received a copy of the report, and that Mr. Heffner has since resigned his position, I trust that the potential crimes detailed in the report will be investigated and prosecuted per your discretion and duty.

As I alluded, the Report concluded by finding “reasonable cause” to believe that the Superintendent committed wrongful acts and omissions.  In reviewing this Report, it is clear that an investigation into possible criminal charges by the appropriate prosecutor is warranted.  It is equally clear that any criminal investigation or charges that might follow would be the subject of considerable scrutiny.  I trust that your offices will handle this matter with the full cooperation of the Inspector General, the Ohio Ethics Commission, and other State officials or departments you deem appropriate. 

The Report details a relationship between Heffner while he was acting Superintendent and Educational Testing Service (ETS), a company that tests teachers, contracts with the state, and stood to gain a significant financial windfall based on proposed legislation being considered by the Ohio General Assembly.  Mr. Heffner, in fact, had entered into an agreement for employment when he testified in support of the legislation before the legislature.  The report found that Superintendent Heffner testified “to the legislature as the state’s principal employee for leadership in education, in support of a bill that could and ultimately did benefit a corporation with which he had entered into an agreement of employment.” And by doing so, Heffner “failed to meet the standards of proper governmental conduct as are commonly accepted in the community and subverts the process of government” (Report, page 8).  The potential violations of ethics laws raised by the Report deserve the ongoing attention of the prosecutor’s office and Ethics Commission, with their expertise in reviewing potential violations of the Ethics Law for state officials.

Further the nature of the relationship between Mr. Heffner and ETS raises clear evidence of the unauthorized use of state property, theft in office, and improper compensation of a public official.  The Report shows that Mr. Heffner negotiated and built his relationship with ETS as a future employer while purportedly engaging in state business and representing the state, using state phones and e-mail accounts, and other state resources.  Mr. Heffner had two ODE executive secretaries conduct a long series of logistical and administrative support of his personal business ventures, including the employment contract with ETS, flights to other job interviews, and entire days working to sell his Ohio residence and purchase real estate in Texas related to his move and planned new employment with ETS (Report, pages 8-14). 

Previous reports from the Inspector General, including and especially those with similar findings of improper use of state resources, time, and employees, were each referred to appropriate prosecutor offices in conjunction with other investigatory agencies.  This includes recent IG Reports, such as File ID 2012-CA00009 (DNR officers hunting deer on duty – referred to Brown County Prosecutor); File ID 2011-187 (Liquor control inspector, among other findings, using a state vehicle to conduct political business on state time – referred to Trumbull County Prosecutor, Ohio Elections Commission, Ohio Ethics Commission);  File ID 2011-214 (DNR employee illegally receiving benefits from a company doing business with the state – referred to Preble County Prosecutor and Ohio Ethics Commission).

Prosecutors are an underappreciated element of well-functioning democracy and serve as a kind of safety valve necessary to the fair application of our criminal laws.  Prosecutors of all political stripes have almost universally set partisanship aside when considering whether to prosecute and, if so, what charges to bring.  A critical component to this dispassionate exercise of prosecutorial discretion has been the separation of the prosecutor from the initial investigator.  That is not to say that they do not or should not communicate with each other.  But the prosecutor is not so deeply invested in the investigation that charges seem inevitable.  On the other hand, the prosecutor, exercising well-recognized and appropriate discretion, has the benefit of a broader perspective of when and how to charge in light of other charges and considerations.

 Mr. Heffner’s resignation, while an appropriate step in this situation, does not alter the duty of prosecutors.  Justice and the significance of our criminal laws, in your capable hands, demand their own path of careful consideration, discretion, and process.  Please advise if I could be of any assistance in this matter. 

Very Truly Yours,
Rep. Dennis Murray

 C: Randall J. Meyer
Inspector General
30 East Broad Street – Suite 2940
Columbus, OH 43215

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Rep. Phillips Statement on IG’s Finding of Wronging Doing by Superintendent Stan Heffner

State Rep. Debbie Phillips released the following statement on the Inspector General’s investigative report and finding of wrong doing by Ohio Department of Education Superintendent Stan Heffner. Mr. Heffner testified last year before the Senate Finance Committee in favor of legislation that would and did financially benefit Education Testing Services (ETS), whom he had accepted a job with while he was serving as interim-Superintendent. Rep. Phillips requested an investigation by Inspector General Meyer into conflicts of interest and today the findings were released. 

“I first want to thank Inspector General Meyer for his thorough investigation and report. Conflicts of interest and misuse of state resources are serious matters and today’s findings have shown there are serious issues within the Ohio Department of Education that warrant further scrutiny.  Public officials have a responsibility to safeguard public funds and represent the best interests of Ohioans, and that is why conflict of interest laws are so important.

“The findings of this investigation, coupled with a separate pending matter before the Ohio Ethics Commission on the reimbursement of Mr. Heffner and staff for trips, are deeply troubling. At a time when local schools are facing significant cuts in state resources and many are seeking local levies to provide opportunities for our children, we need to ensure that all state funds are being spent wisely and appropriately and we must keep clear oversight of all decision making surrounding the limited resources available.”

A copy of Inspector General Meyer’s report can be seen at http://watchdog.ohio.gov/Portals/0/pdf/investigations/2011_139.pdf.

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Rep. Pillich to Introduce Legislation to Make State Watchdog More Accountable

State Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Montgomery) introduced legislation today to create greater accountability and oversight for the office of the Inspector General by requiring a bipartisan appointing process through the four legislative leaders.  This legislation will ensure the state’s top watchdog maintains the necessary distance from partisan political activities.

“Recent activities have brought attention to the need for greater distance from political partisanship by the state’s top watchdog.  The Inspector General is charged with the responsibility of investigating wrongdoing in state government and protecting taxpayers from waste, fraud and abuse within the executive branch.  Under no circumstance should Inspector General participate in any activity that could raise questions about the integrity and independence of the office,” said Rep. Pillich.

Serious questions about Inspector General Randy Meyer’s ability to objectively investigate wrongdoing in state government have been raised by his lack of judgment, and a report by the Columbus Dispatch that Mr. Meyer has only conducted 12 investigative reports, the fewest from the IG’s office since 2007.  And most recently the Cleveland Plain Dealer uncovered the hiring of Mr. Meyer’s son by ODOT, an agency overseen by a deputy Inspector General for ODOT, whom is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of Mr. Meyer.

“At a time when the people of Ohio feel Columbus and government are out of touch and unaccountable, the role of an independent Ohio Inspector General is more important than ever,” said Rep. Pillich. “While similar bills have been introduced in past General Assemblies it is now evidently clear that legislative action is needed to ensure the Inspector General be independent, and maintain an independent appearance so that investigations and recommendations will be impartial and viewed by others as impartial.”

This legislation will provide the necessary distance from political activities to ensure the Inspector General can effectively and objectively investigate potential wrong doing by state officials. It will do so by taking the appointing authority away from the governor and giving it to the four legislative leaders.  The appointment must be approved with 3 out of the 4 votes of these bipartisan leaders.  This bill will also adopt the same restrictions on political activity for all employees of the IG and the IG as followed by other legislative and administrative employees. The IG would serve a six year term subject to removal by the Senate for gross neglect, misconduct, and/ or dereliction of duty.


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