Columbus City School Board: No Public Access To Ethics Training

Columbus City Schools Board of Education closed its ethics training session to the public.(Photo: Columbus City Schools)
Columbus City Schools Board of Education closed its ethics training session to the public.(Photo: Columbus City Schools)

Members of the Columbus School Board were trained by state ethics employees Monday night. And later they met with their recently-hired attorney. But what went on during those meetings remains a mystery.

About a month after the Ohio Auditor was called to investigate alleged attendance data rigging at Columbus City Schools, all seven school board members as well as Superintendent Gene Harris received ethics lessons from the Ohio Ethics Commission.

WOSU was denied access to the training session. Despite board members receiving training on how to conduct board business in an ethical manner, we were told the meeting was closed to the public and NOT subject to state open meetings laws.
Board member Hanifah Kambon after the session said, “I didn’t understand either, why the training was closed.”

Board member Mike Wiles also was unsure why the public was not permitted for the training. But board president Carol Perkins underscored the meeting did not have to be open.

“This was a training session, ethics training. That’s it,” Perkins said.

The ethics commission representative, Susan Willeke, said she was on official business, and that the session was a typical presentation.

“Conflicts of interest, public contract, post-employment, so it’s general overview of the Ohio ethics law,” she said.

Willeke said the board did not discuss ethical situations related to the recent attendance data investigation.

Following the ethics training, which lasted about an hour, the board called a special meeting and went directly into executive session with Robert Trafford. Trafford is the attorney the district hired to assist it with the on-going investigation into alleged data rigging. That meeting lasted for nearly two hours.

Despite the long meeting, board president Perkins said she is not sure whether Trafford is conducting his own investigation into the data scandal.

The state is looking into whether the district retroactively withdrew and re-enrolled thousands of students. That action could skew state report cards to yield a better score.

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