Ohio Ethics Commission requests board member business documents

Commission is investigating the business practices of two Huron school board members, according to documents the Register obtained this past week.
Alissa Widman Neese
Oct 6, 2013

The documents — dozens of invoices and supporting paperwork on Huron Schools' purchases at Huron Cement and Ace Hardware, two local businesses — suggest Huron school board members John Caporini and Tim Sowecke are the subjects of the state probe. Caporini and Sowecke own the businesses, respectively.

Download and view the documents requested in the pdfs below

The Ohio Ethics Commission fields complaints against public officials and determines whether an accused individual's behavior is unethical. Its representatives will not comment on ongoing investigations until they have released an official report on their findings, which only happens if an individual is found to be unethical.

The commission requested the documents from Huron Schools a few months ago, however, making them a public record accessible through a request the Register submitted this past week, district treasurer Mike Weis said.

The Register submitted an identical public records request to Huron Schools in June. At that time, Weis said no such documents existed. District attorneys initially told Weis the documents were not a public record, so Weis denied that request, he said Friday. The attorneys have since changed their stance — they said Weis could provide the documents to the Register.

"I don't know what (the commission) is up to," Weis said. "We audit any purchases every year as a related-party transaction and we've never had a problem with it. We're a small town; there's only certain places you can go get things before it becomes an added cost to go elsewhere."

The documents Weis provided indicate Huron Schools paid Huron Cement $20,000 from 2002-07 and paid Ace Hardware about $4,000 from 2011-12. The district recorded 24 transactions with Huron Cement in a five-year period and 29 transactions with Ace Hardware in a two-year period. The district's annual budget is about $15 million.

All purchases were less than $15,000, so they did not require board approval, Weis said. 

According to Ohio Ethics Commission rules, a board member can do business with their district if he or she meets all four of the following exceptions:

•The board member's business provides necessary goods and services.

•Transactions are part of a continuing business relationship that existed before he or she was elected or the goods and services are unobtainable elsewhere for the same or lower cost.

•Treatment the board member provides the district is the same or better than treatment he or she provides to other customers or clients in similar transactions. 

•Transactions are conducted at arm's length, the district has full knowledge of the board member's interest in the sale of the goods and services, and the board member has taken no part in the deliberations or decisions concerning the transaction.

Both Caporini and Sowecke contend their business practices with Huron Schools have been ethical.

After winning a school board seat in 2011, Sowecke asked Weis if Ace Hardware was allowed still allowed to do business with Huron Schools, with him contending it was, Sowecke said. Email exchanges with district officials Sowecke provided confirmed his statement.

Business as usual continued, with maintenance employees making small, day-to-day purchases at Ace Hardware, Sowecke said. 

"It was the same arrangement that had existed for the past 25 years, long before I purchased the store in 2001," Sowecke said. "I welcome the review of the relationship between Huron Ace Hardware and the school district. I asked the right question before I took office and was told by the district's top expert on policy, treasurer Mike Weis, there would not be a problem."

Caporini referred the Register to his company's attorney, Jim Peters, of Reminger Attorneys at Law, who said he preferred questions be emailed to him. Peters did not respond to the email sent Friday afternoon, a few minutes after he called. 

At the end of his four-year term, which was renewed in 2011, Caporini will have been a board member for 20 years.

Comments

gramafun

wow...there is nothing more distasteful than revenge served cold.

Justme...

gramafun do you realize how this all got started? Mr. Asher brought it up in what seemed like an effort to get revenge on Mr. Sowecki. He made the point that since Mr. Sowecki was now a board member, the district could no long make purchases from Ace Hardware. He either forgot or didn't realize how much business the district was doing with Huron Cement. It escalated from there.

gramafun

No matter how it got started (and thanks for filling me in on this), it still seems like revenge served cold.

You have people fighting on a board in Huron and in Perkins. Does anyone realize what terrible example these people set for the older students at these schools or does no one care at all? I am just wondering? All I see is a great deal of fighting and arguing over one thing and another. Its really sad in both places.

Justme...

I could not agree more. All I can say is that from my vantage point, the three board member are setting a good example in that they are not buckling to ugliness, revenge and intimidation. They have an obligation to every taxpayer and every employee in the district...not just one.

Huron_1969

grama, the 3 board members have done the right thing by sticking to what is right and moral. This has been uglier than many locals ever imagined and it'll probably get worse before it gets better. But it is the right thing to do. Hat's off to the 3 for staying the course through thick and thin.

Everyday we witness elected officials getting away with illegal or unethical behavior and we ask ourselves why someone doesn't do something to stop it. In our small community we are watching 3 people stand their ground to do what is right. I cannot begin to imagine the toll this has had on them personally and my hat goes off to them!

Informed

So true! And if I have to hear one more time how Kalahari was going to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate the McCormick auditorium before this Fox mess, I think I'm going to scream! What those people are saying is that it's okay to commit wrong-doing as long as there is a financial benefit. WRONG! Money can't hide it and doesn't make it okay.

I know which incumbent I will definitely NOT be voting for!

pavedparadise

gram: here is some reading of ethics.

ethics.ohio.gov/advice/faq.shtml

Wa Tu Lo

The only people that are out for revenge are Asher,Caporini and the Fox supporters. It has been that way ever since they started investigating Fox. They would have liked to of "swept everything under the rug" and business as usual. That group had a sweet thing going until the corruption caught up with them using taxpayer dollars.

The Fox's posse have spread so many untrue things around Huron and it has hurt the reputation of many fine citizens. That shows this group will never stop until they get what they want. It is really evil what their future agenda is for the taxpayer and school system. They are no better than the fools in Washington,D.C. that is destroying our country. Heaven only knows how much turmoil there will be in this town if those three are elected.

I would like to get one thing straight on what a Fox supporter said at a school board meeting. He stated that "the money McCormick Junior High was to get from Kalahari through tax abatement was gone". That is not true, so tell the truth. Kalahari got tax abatement for fifteen years. They still had to pay 25% of the tax abatement to McCormick Junior High for the auditorium which is about $75,000 a year for fifteen years. That was the agreement between the township trustee's and Kalahari. You need to start telling the truth because your untrue statements are catching up with you.

SoldOnAcorns

You can now tell who is entrenched into the good ol' boy network in Huron with all the signs in the front yards...Good stuff...atleast everyone will know now who has a spine, morals and ethics.

whocares

If this ends ugly I hope people don't support the old boy business's. Kalahari is not leaving any time soon. They will be back for another abatement.

whazup

Has anyone else noticed a few signs gone? Drove past a house on Cleveland Rd Saturday sporting three ABM signs. Today the yard is looking nekked! LOL I would be embarrassed to have that sign in my yard.

donutshopguy

If ABM are elected to the school board you can expect another round of corruption. Mr. Cap acts like the godfather of Huron. His time has past.

Huron_1969

"His time has past"???
Assuming there's no jail time. He's gotta be getting free legal advice from Asher

Informed

Hahaha....that's funny. Legal advice from the non-lawyer lawyer.

Dudley Do-Right

ABM ... A Bowel Movement ... full of it!

holycow

I think the people of huron will vote to replace the current board members up for re election . The only way to get over this mess is with fresh voices . People that don't hold grudges. There is no way you can trust this group of five with more tax dollars .

Justme...

How do you suggest they do that? We don't have three new people running who aren't holding a grudge. Of the four that are not currently on the board, two are openly running as a block with Asher, meaning they want what he wants. One of those two, who was outsted by the voters two years ago, has been working feverishly to try to get Mr. Fox his job back. If those two get elected, along with another new board member, Fox supporters will have the board majority. And what do you think they will do with our tax dollars? If we had three fresh voices running, I would agree with you.

Informed

Two of the incumbents running are the ones doing the right thing. I hope they get reelected along with Catri! They are the ones that will continue to get rid of the slimy, sleazy ways in which the district has been run for years, until the three current members took action that the other two members covered up or swept under the rug. If ABM get in, the district will once again wallow in mud.

UgtaBkdnMe

Interesting read in the Readers Forum. Asher refers to the legal costs of the Markling report. Wonder how much of that money was spent because of his injunction and conspiracy theory filed through the courts? I bet that was a pretty penny. Wonder how much money the district spent in mileage reimbursement for the former superintendent to and from Fremont? Is that in the treasurer's report? He is concerned about the athletic department being over-budget. That has been going on for several years. The former athletic director has been gone for only 14 months. What was her name? Monica something. Oh yeah, I remember. Her daddy, Kevin, was on the board the last two years of her job. Was he concerned then? Maybe Asher is bitter that the board didn't approve Tony Jr. in July 2012 for AD and brought in new blood. No agenda here. LOL

Wonder why the treasurer is giving ABM one explanation of the finances but has released a favorable explanation through public records. What I read (and it was written by Weis) is that even if the renewal fails, the district will not need to ask for new money before 2015.

UgtaBkdnMe

If you check the district website, the forcast states the insurance company will pay for the legal fees for the Fox situation. IF Fox wins (which I doubt - we now know that our boy Cap is under investigation and they are so intertwined) the district MAY be responsible to pay Fox $312,485.07. Again, not likely to happen. Attorney Asher (LOL) tells the readers that they will need to put a levy on the ballot in 2014. This is true, sorta. A renewal of an emergency level will expire in 2014 but it has not been yet determined in if or when it will go on the ballot. This is NOT NEW MONEY! Why does Asher and friend lie? Because the truth doesn't promote their agenda!

Informed

And don't forget all the money Fox cost the district in teacher grievances because he consistently violated the contract. But Asher wants him back? That, combined with your points, emphasizes that Asher doesn't give a rat's behind about the district's money, as long as he gets what he wants.

Darkhorse

A lot of the paperwork is poor at the most. Some paperwork doesn't explain what item was charged and to what department. How did the auditors ever okay such sloppy paperwork without any details?

UgtaBkdnMe

State auditors don't look at board policies not would they have known Mr. Caporini is affiliated with a family business doing business with the schools. Mr. Weis gives 'creative' explanations.

Justme...

I wonder how Alissa came up with the 4 bullet points in her article above? They are are creative as well. Read the PDF posted here. "...a continuing business relationship" is not an exemption unless it was for a specific project that was under contract when the person takes office. The ethics rules could not be any clearer.

pavedparadise

Darkhorse:

Welcome to politics. Not knowing what City you live in, but I'm sure this goes on where you live. It's the political way. You're not doing anything wrong until you get caught.

Julie R.

I don't personally know Sherry Catri, but I like the letters she wrote in the Huron Hometown News. She tells it like it is ---- no punches pulled there.

As an afterthought, it says that Caporini referred the Register to his company's attorney, Jim Peters, from Reminger Attorneys at Law. Isn't Jimmy Peters from Huron? Didn't he at one time work for the big Lorain County law firm of Wickens, Herzer, Panzer, Cook, & Batista Co., who merged with a small Sandusky law firm about 5 years ago? No big deal ---- just curious.

Wa Tu Lo

Asher, Bulea and Muehlhauser: You need to start telling the truth. Isn't it funny how we forget who was on the school board when Huron schools went into fiscal emergency. Bulea and Caporini played a big part in that problem. Now your saying that the school treasure and Mr. Slocum are misleading the public. You say we need to make immediate cuts, yet you are going around this town saying you want the levy to fail, then bring it back on the ballot in February if you are elected. You forgot to inform the public how much money Asher and Fox has cost the taxpayers on their lawsuits filed against the three school board members. You people, A.B.M., must condone Fox's extra marital affair because you fail to ever mention it. That cost us taxpayers a lot of money, when he was suppose to be working. Oh, then you failed to mention Fox turned in receipts for $800 plus dollars for trips to Fremont as mileage expense. What a sweet job he had and now you would like him to walk away with a seven figure settlement.

In your letter you said Huron' so called "largest philanthropic donor" Todd Nelson walked away. The tickets that were sold by Huron residents for a day at Kalahari, Mr. Nelson made a lot of money from those tickets. If you ever went there and had to pay, instead of getting free perks, you would know what I paid for that day. Mr. Nelson did nothing wrong. It was his so called friend that brought him into this mess. You so called friends need to apologize to him.

I sure hope the Huron voters take this election serious. I work hard for my tax dollars and don't want it paid to a person who made a big mistake and wants free money from us taxpayers.

pavedparadise

From Famous quotes::

"You're not doing anything wrong until you get caught".

whazup

Wonder if and when we will see a follow up?

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