Although tasked with policing Ohio’s executive branch, Inspector General Randall Meyer failed to investigate Ohio chief executive John Kasich for wasting millions of dollars on IQ Innovations, a company owned by embattled ECOT founder and mega-GOP donor William Lager.
Kasich’s first state budget paved the way for IQ to receive more than $5 million in state money for an online clearinghouse of textbooks and other instructional material. The state called the project iLearnOhio and gave Ohio State University and the Ohio Board of Regents responsibility for it. The clearinghouse never worked properly – but that didn’t matter.
IQ had a protector on the inside who kept the money flowing and the critics quiet.
Here’s how Kasich pulled it off:
- His very first state budget as governor, Kasich required the clearinghouse to be located at OSU.
- The same budget authorized the Chancellor of the Board of Regents to pick the iLearn vendor, and it gave the governor enormous power over the Chancellor by making him an employee at will.
- Kasich appointed former Ohio AG Jim Petro Chancellor – the person who received more direct donations from Bill Lager and his employees than any other politician in Ohio history. Once in place, Chancellor Petro put a former Lager consultant in charge of the iLearn project.
- When iLearn failed to work properly, Petro made sure it got even more state money. It still didn’t work.
None of that is in IG’s report. In fact, the report makes no mention of Kasich or Lager, no mention of the millions Lager donated to Republicans. If the IG interviewed Petro, it is not reflected in his report, and the report offers no clues about the circumstances under which Petro decided to put the former Lager consultant – John Conley – in charge of iLearn.
Instead, the report works overtime to dismiss claims by whistleblowers who said Conley retaliated against them for trying to make the taxpayer-funded clearinghouse work. The IG determined that actions against the whistleblowers were not retaliatory but rather “management decisions that the (inspector general) considers internal agency matters.”
The timing of the IG’s report is almost as offensive as the content.
Days ‘’before New Year’s, final days of administration, don’t post it online, don’t interview key people … that’s not just taking out the trash, it’s incinerating it in the backyard after dark,’’ Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper wrote in a tweet. Pepper said he will ask the IG for his supporting documentation and send the information to the FBI which has already expressed an interest in Lager’s political donations.
The IG did not send out a news release or post his findings on his website. Instead, he sent a copy to former ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis who sued him to get the findings. Theis agreed to dismiss the case after the IG said the report was being drafted and he promised a copy when it was completed. Months later, he said it was undergoing its “final edit.’’
On Dec. 27 at 11:02, the IG emailed Theis the report.
In September 2015, Plunderbund was the first to break the news about the extent of the IQ problems, and it was the first to publicize the complaint the whistleblowers filed about the retaliation they endured. Soon after, ProgressOhio did its own investigation.
All the new details unearthed by Plunderbund and ProgressOhio were ignored by the IG .
Lager is best known for his role as founder of ECOT. State officials ordered the now-closed online charter school to repay $80 million in tax dollars that it received based on enrollment it couldn’t document. The school’s state money is tied to attendance.
Lager has been referred to the local prosecutor and the FBI for possible attendance padding at ECOT.
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