On August 2nd, the Inspector General released a report detailing the “wrongful acts” committed by State Superintendent Stan Heffner. And even though the IG urged disciplinary action for Heffner’s systemic pattern of ethics violations, State Board of Education President Debe Terhar decided she would wait until the next meeting of the board – 6 weeks away – to take up the matter.
In response to Terhar’s delay, Greg asked readers (on August 4th) to email members of the State School Board, requesting they “immediately act to place Stan Heffner on indefinite leave from the Ohio Department of Education” and to “review the disciplinary options” available to the Board – which is very similar to the suggestion from the IG . Keep in mind this was all before Heffner resigned.
One of our readers took Greg’s advice and emailed all of the school board members. Board Member Deb Cain responded quickly, saying she had already “asked the board president to call a special meeting regarding the report from the IG’s office” and was “waiting for a response.” But most responded after the resignation announcement, politely thanking the reader for sending the letter and letting her know that Mr. Heffner had since resigned.
All, that is, except for Kasich appointee C. Todd Jones.
Jones, a registered lobbyists for the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities in Ohio, appears to have been angered by the letters he received from multiple Plunderbund readers. And in response, he sent back probably the most unprofessional, condescending and downright rude letter I have ever seen from someone who holds a public office.
Jones berates the reader for sending him what he calls the “factually inaccurate and tendentious views of others”. He then spends an entire paragraph whining about a small typo and urges the reader to seek out other sources of information, claiming she was “misinformed on key facts” by listening to Plunderbund. And he attempts to “correct” the reader’s understanding of the law regarding the possibility of prosecution for Heffner.
The tone of the letter is inexcusable and it brings up serious questions about whether Jones has the temperament to be in his current position. More importantly, the information he provides to the reader regarding the role of the prosecutors is absolutely incorrect.
We at Plunderbund think Mr. Jones should take his own advice. Before sending off nasty emails half-cocked and without any research or facts to back up his statements, we think Todd should have spent a little time to “dig deeper, investigating more sources.”
Thankfully, we’re willing to help.
Mr. Jones tells the reader:
For your benefit, I will note that the determination of criminal charges, which we now know will not occur, would not rest with the Franklin County prosecutor… under Ohio law, any referral of ethics charges for criminal prosecution would rest with the Ohio Ethics Commission, and not a local prosecutor.
If this statement about local prosecutors just doesn’t sound right to you – that’s because it’s not.
We contacted Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien. According to his office they “received a hand delivered copy of IG Report 2011-139 regarding ODE Superintendent Stan Heffner on Aug 2, 2012” and they were waiting on further documents from the IG’s office in order to determine if charges would be filed. The city attorneys office also received a copy of the report and is also reviewing it for potential charges. Neither office is hindered by the fact that the Ethics Commission did not refer charges to them, as Jones incorrectly explains in his letter.
Need other sources?
The Toledo Blade and the Columbus Dispatch have both reported similar information about city and county prosecutors looking into the IG’s Heffner report, and the Blade went so far as to insist a “credible criminal investigation … needs to proceed.”
Still need a little more clarification?
We also sent a copy of Jones’ letter to an experienced criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor to review Todd’s claim. Here’s the response:
This could not be more wrong. Not stopped clock wrong, because at least a stopped clock is right twice a day. This is wrong like one of those old digital clocks that would display 88:88.
Lets look at this from both the strictly legal and the practical standpoint.
From a legal standpoint, R.C. § 309.08 provides that the “prosecuting attorney may inquire into the commission of crimes within the county.” The statute further provides that the “prosecuting attorney shall prosecute, on behalf of the state, all complaints, suits, and controversies in which the state is a party . . .” What this means is that Ohio law gives the prosecuting attorney – in this case the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney because that is where the alleged crimes occurred – the authority to conduct an independent investigation and institute criminal charges. The Revised Code does not require a referral from the Ohio Ethics Commission.
From a practical standpoint, the prosecuting attorney could use the grand jury to conduct an independent investigation, including sending out subpoenas for records and obtaining the testimony of witnesses under oath. However, in almost all cases Franklin County Prosecutor under Ron O’Brien has relied upon the investigations completed by law enforcement agencies or administrative agencies like the Inspector General. It is not unusual for prosecutors throughout the state to initiate criminal proceedings based solely upon the information obtained by the Office of the Inspector General.
In other words: C. Todd Jones is wrong. Very wrong. Which is interesting since he holds two law degrees and is a member of the Ohio, DC and Colorado Bars.
In his response, Jones does exactly what he accuses the reader of doing, relying on a single faulty source of information. In this case, himself.
Jones closes his letter by recommending the reader, a teacher by profession, share his bullying, disrespectful and completely inaccurate letter with her students to use as a “teaching moment” or to “start a discussion”. Which seems like a really great idea. I can think of no better example of how NOT to write correspondence or how NOT to respond to criticism or how NOT to seem completely and totally unprepared to handle the basic stresses of a public position like at-large school board member.
It thoroughly amazes that someone in a position like Jones’ would even consider writing a letter like the one he sent to our reader- let alone spend the time composing it and then proudly hitting the send button – from him public email account. Then again, he is a Kasich appointee. And if we know anything about the Kasich team, it’s that their vetting process leaves a lot to be desired.
Here’s the full letter. Let us know what you think…
FROM: Jones, Todd
Thank you for your form letter. I appreciate your forwarding to me the factually inaccurate and tendentious views of others, as several other individuals did last weekend.
For your benefit, I will note that the determination of criminal charges, which we now know will not occur, would not rest with the Franklin County prosecutor. As best as I can determine, the idea to do so was suggested by a political operative who apparently is unaware that under Ohio law, any referral of ethics charges for criminal prosecution would rest with the Ohio Ethics Commission, and not a local prosecutor.
I will not belabor this response by correcting your misunderstanding of the allegations about the legislative testimony or by contextualizing the relative weight of any potential violations of state licensure laws by the superintendent and the historic sanction by ODE for such violations. I will also not explain why you are confusing findings by the inspector general (an investigating agency) with a determination of facts in a Chapter 119 hearing for licensure (an adjudication process).
Instead, I will encourage you in the future to do more than forward what a political website recommends that you do. I suggest that you dig deeper, investigating more sources for your news–hopefully ones that are not avowedly partisan.
You may find that you have been misinformed on key facts, as you were here. While ultimately you may reach the same conclusions, at least you will not find yourself repeating the misinformation disseminated by others for political advantage.
Lastly, I will note that repeating the words of others will result in your repeating the grammatical and punctuation errors they make. (As but one example, “violation” is singular and the proper verb would be “is” instead of “are,” although in this instance, the better choice probably would have been “violations” as a plural, keeping “are.”) Form letters that are poorly drafted only undermine the point you are trying to make.
I hope you find this letter helpful, and take no disrespect that numerous others who sent form letters to me will receive a letter substantially similar to this one.
And since you added to the standard letter that you are a teacher, let me encourage you to share with your students if it would be age appropriate. You could call it a teaching moment, or use it to start a discussion of what everyone learned this summer.
C. Todd Jones