State representative and former assistant attorney general Kristin Boggs today issued a letter calling for state Auditor Dave Yost to recuse himself from all current and future matters related to the Educational Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) and for a special audit to be conducted into the charter school, the Ohio Democratic Party announced in a release Monday.
“Auditor Yost has consistently failed to lead an effective investigation or audit into any matters involving ECOT,” Boggs said. “In 2014 Auditor Yost received information from an ECOT school employee regarding fraudulent school enrollment, but he then allowed ECOT to limit the scope of its own investigation. ECOT leaders openly bragged about the fact that they convinced Auditor Yost to forgo requesting student login hours in response to the 2014 complaint. As a result of his complicity, ECOT continued to be overpaid millions of taxpayer dollars.”
Over the last several years ECOT has been paid more than $100 million dollars per year by the state of Ohio. Since 2010, ECOT leadership has contributed more than $1 million in political contributions to Ohio Republican organizations and officials. Yost’s campaign and transition fund have received nearly $20,000 in contributions from William Lager, ECOT’s founder, and ECOT-associated entities. Lager is one of Yost’s largest donors.
“No one with a reasonable mind would conclude that ECOT’s founder gave more than $1 million back to Republican leaders out of pure charity,” Boggs said. “They did it to advance their business interests. This is the slimiest form of politics. You have a few individuals that have become multimillionaires at the expense of Ohio taxpayers. These individuals then kick back more than $1 million in political contributions, so the legislature, the attorney general’s office, and auditor’s office will look the other way, while ECOT owners continue to get rich off the state.
“I believe that Ohio taxpayers deserve to have full confidence in a special audit regarding all matters related to ECOT. The massive amount of political contributions doled out by ECOT and Auditor Yost’s record of failing to aggressively investigate ECOT casts a shadow on the propriety of any matter in which ECOT is being examined by his office. Auditor Yost repeatedly missed the warning signs on ECOT student attendance fraud. He was either asleep at the wheel, or he allowed ECOT’s political capital to change how he viewed an entity that bilked Ohio taxpayers out of $60 million. Either way, he needs to step aside and we need a special audit performed by an independent firm.”
The State Board of Education last month voted to force ECOT to repay $60 million that the for-profit e-charter school overbilled Ohio taxpayers during the last school year. ECOT is appealing that decision to the Ohio Supreme Court.