Ohio School Board Won’t Discipline Employees For Breaking Law

Ohio School Board Won’t Discipline Employees For Breaking Law
May 22, 2014

The Sylvania School Board will not take disciplinary action against their superintendent and other staff who violated Ohio law during a recent property tax levy campaign.

The board placed a 3.8 mill continuous levy on the May 6 primary ballot, but it failed. During the campaign, employees of the district used school resources to promote the levy, which is illegal in Ohio.

Superintendent Brad Rieger, who said he was “responsible for everything,” won’t face any discipline, according to board president Jim Nusbaum.

Resident Chris Myers originally noticed the violations, which included promoting the campaign on the district’s web page, sending emails to parents from school email accounts and listing a high school and district technology officer as the owner of the campaign web page.

Ohio law prohibits using “public funds to support or oppose the passage of a school levy or bond issue.” School employees cannot be compensated for “time spent on any activity intended to influence the outcome of a levy or bond.”

Violation of the law is a first-degree misdemeanor—the same as a DUI.

Training, Not Sanctions
Nubaum declined to be interviewed, but in an email said he had read a report showing school employees violating the law.

“I echo the sentiments of Dr. Rieger and would further state that it will be my recommendation that Sylvania Schools officials receive training about non-use of school resources relative to levy efforts as soon as practicable,” he wrote.

When asked specifically if any employees would face reprimand or other discipline for violating the law and the board’s own internal policies, he wrote:

“I have discussed these issues and my desire for training with Dr. Rieger and expect he will address these matters appropriately.”

That didn’t sit well with Myers,who said asking the board to enforce the law was “like asking other foxes to hold one fox accountable for raiding the hen house.”

Myers said any discipline should be dependent on whether this was a case of “overzealous staff” or if the district has an “intentional and flagrant pattern of violations.” He said not having consequences for violating the law would “cause a major credibility problem for the district, future levies and school board members.”

“While the district should know better, I hope they are planning, at a minimum, a districtwide refresher on what can and cannot be done on a levy to make sure it does not happen again,” Myers said.

Myers filed a complaint with the state auditor, who will either follow-up through a normal audit, a special audit, initiate an investigation, or refer the issue to another appropriate entity.

The auditor’s office does not comment on pending complaints, a representative said.

Maggie Thurber (mthurber@watchdog.org) writes from Ohio. Article reprinted from Watchdog.org with permission. Image by Steve Rhodes.