District provides some, but not all, records

Treasurer Mike Weis releases documents related to Huron Cement purchases.
Alissa Widman Neese
Oct 14, 2013

 

Huron Schools officials may not have provided all public documents related to a state probe when the Register requested them this past month.

When contacted Oct. 7, district treasurer Mike Weis provided the additional documents — a check register and dozens of invoices related to district purchases from Huron Cement, a local business, from 2007-12.

The documents detail more than 40 recent transactions with Huron Cement, which longtime Huron school board member John Caporini owns.

Click HERE for a previous story including documents requested by the OEC

Representatives from the Ohio Ethics Commission appear to be investigating Caporini, as well as fellow board member Tim Sowecke, owner of Ace Hardware. A few months ago, the commission requested invoices and paperwork regarding Huron Schools purchases at both local businesses.

The Ohio Ethics Commission fields complaints against public officials and determines if 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.    

On Sept. 30, the Register obtained documents the commission requested, which indicate Huron Schools paid Huron Cement about $20,000 during 24 transactions from 2002-07. The district also paid Ace Hardware a total of about $4,000 in 29 transactions from 2011-12. The district’s annual budget is about $15 million.

The additional documents obtained Oct. 7 indicate about $9,350 was spent during 40 transactions with Huron Cement between 2007-12, for a total of 64 transactions and $30,000 spent from 2002-12.

When asked if the commission had requested the additional invoices the Register received Oct. 7, Weis said he had “no idea” because of “search issues” in the district’s records system.

“We have had multiple requests for Huron Cement invoices, and this was a batch that went to someone,” Weis said in an email. “That is why it was filed in a different location. Not sure whom. I do know the batch sent to you last week did go (to the commission) for sure.”

Weis mailed the document detailing the commission’s initial public records request back to its representatives, using it as a checklist to ensure he sent paper copies of all documents they requested, he said. They said Friday the document is confidential, and the commission is not required to provide it to the Register.

Jim Peters, Huron Cement’s attorney, emailed the Register a statement Friday on Caporini’s behalf.

Prior to Friday, Caporini hadn’t yet commented on the alleged investigation, although at board meetings he has said his transactions with Huron Schools have adhered to Ohio Ethics Commission rules.

“Huron Cement Products Company has a long history of providing specialty products to Huron Schools,” the statement said. “The relationship predates John Caporini’s tenure on the school board.”

“Throughout the relationship the specialty products and services were provided at or below prices charged to comparablecustomers, at discounted prices or free of charge,” the statement continues. “With regard to the Ohio Ethics Commission investigation, Huron Cement and Mr. Caporini are cooperating fully with the investigation.”

Caporini has been a Huron school board member for 18 consecutive years, while Sowecke has been a member for two years.

                                Sept. 30 Records Request                         Oct. 7 Records Request

Ace Hardware     $4,000 in 29 transactions; 2011-12

Huron Cement    $20,000 in 24 transactions; 2002-07         $9,350 in 40 transactions; 2007-12

 

Comments

Justme...

“Huron Cement Products Company has a long history of providing specialty products to Huron Schools,” the statement said. “The relationship predates John Caporini’s tenure on the school board.”

Not good enough. OEC guidelines posted on the previous article say..."If there was simply a practice of purchases, or if there are any significant changes to the contract (including cost), the official cannot meet this exception."

The bottom line is he can't profit from the district unless it is for a project that was under contract when he took office - even if he provides the service at a discounted rate.

Wa Tu Lo

No wonder Asher and Caporini supported Fox so adamantly. Asher got his daughter hired as a teacher, then she got a big promotion to athletic director. Caporini got a lot of business from the Huron Schools system. The Huron Bus Garage was suppose to be blacktopped but was changed to cement. Guess who got that contract? I would bet my last nickle that Asher, Caporini, and Fox knew that they were violating ethics rules. Asher sure put a stop to it when Sowecke became a member of the board. What a "good ole boy" system they had and the Huron taxpayer paying for all that corruption. I would sure like to know how much taxpayer money would have been saved had those jobs gone up for bid. There is an old saying with this election coming up, "once bitten twice shy". Those three running together, that support Fox, will never get my vote.

Dudley Do-Right

Don't forget there is an Asher on the payroll of Huron Cement.

Common_Cents

Do any of you folks know how much it costs for poured concrete? $20k over 5 years for all the concrete work at an entire school system? As a Huron resident and taxpayer, I'm thankful we have local businesses who provide the district such discounts. Anyone who doesn't recognize this benefit is disconnected from reality.

Dudley Do-Right

What if the purchases did not involve concrete? What if the items that were purchased weren't available to other customers? What if Huron schools paid more for the items through Huron Cement than they would have through other vendors?

Can you buy Clorox wipes at Huron Cement? The Huron maintenance supervisor did and Fred Fox signed the purchase orders.

Would you pay $69.99 for a discharge hose at Huron Cement and wait 2 weeks for it or buy it off the shelf at Menards for $39.99? The Huron maintenance supervisor bought the hose from Huron Cement and Fred Fox signed the purchase orders.

Alissa Widman please post the purchase orders and quotes to show everyone the true nature of what has been going on. This is just an example of what has been going on.

Alissa Widman Neese's picture
Alissa Widman Neese

I believe the documents from my first request are available at the link of my previous story I wrote about the OEC this past week:

http://www.sanduskyregister.com/...

I'll try and get the second round of documents I received (Huron Cement only) posted soon.

Edit: They're now posted. It's a large file and it's not necessarily in order, but I just attached it as it was provided.

Dudley Do-Right

This is from the Menards website for the same discharge hose in stock.

2 ID X 50' Discharge Hose
2 ID X 50' Discharge Hose
2IDX50'
Sku: 6841030
Model: 42146309
(0)
$39.50

Common_Cents

I've glanced through the Huron Cement invoices posted on the other article, and they represent purchase of bulk concrete, stone, and other specialty material by and large. I don't even see the discharge hose you mention, but never the less, try to find another vendor to deliver Class C concrete for $50 per yard, or stone for $13 per yard, or engraved bricks for $25. There are even invoices in there as credits and some which explicitly say donation. As I said before, on the whole, these represent great discounts to the district (if you don't believe me - call around and try to get these prices from another vendor!), and we should be thankful for them. I haven't even looked at the Ace stuff, but I suspect it is the same way... I'm not really sure how you can look at the documents and reach the conclusions you do. As I said before, I'm thankful for these businesses and what they do for the town of Huron.

whazup

Check out page 120 to about page 135 of the updated records (472 pages total). $2,500 worth of CLEANING supplies were purchased including a Dirt Devil vacuum with a pet attachment. Really???????????? Schools use commercial grade vacuums and Dirt Devils sold for under $100 at any department store. We, the taxpayer, purchased it from Cap for $120. He didn't give anyone a break. The only breaking he did was the law.

Common_Cents

Ok, I see that some of the newly released invoices are for things other than concrete, although it still looks like MOST are for building supplies, concrete, piping, etc. And, I still don't get the hysterics. It is common practice for schools (and other businesses) to have standard vendors for supplies - this increases efficiency, and saves employee time. Yes, you may be able to find a vacuum for $25 less or a another item for slightly less at yet another place, but this would require shopping around for each individual item, driving to get it, etc. That is simply not how an efficient business is run, and if you don't know this, you should. I still don't see anything here like a $1000 pencil, which would be true cause for concern. $130 for a vacuum is a standard price, and having a single vendor for supplies is common practice. I still find your outrage about this misplaced, odd, and quite frankly, misinformed.

Justme...

Tell it to the OEC. You may have no problem with it, but ethics guidelines say you can't do it. Are you going to pick and choose which guidelines we follow and which we don't? Look at the mistrust this creates! There are REASONS for these rules.

UgtaBkdnMe

AMEN! Just another example of the corruption that has been going on for years. I am amazed that anyone would defend a person breaking the law, especially when it is an elected official.

TaxRaider

I don't think the outrage is misplaced, odd, or misinformed. Here are the rules:

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.

Common_Cents

thanks for making my point that this outrage/hysteria is totally misplaced. First of all, the use of the word corruption above is completely incorrect in terms of either the owner of Huron Cement or Ace. Corruption entails fraud or bribery, neither of which are shown on the invoices. Second, the ethics commissions rules are not laws, they are rules - so IF these business owners who are basically volunteering their time on the board broke them, they may be kicked off the board, but not charged with a crime. And third, again, reading your four points above, Huron Cement/Caporini/Ace/Sowecke seems to satisfy all four, and most reasonable people would agree. The goods/services were necessary, Huron City Schools has had accounts and relationship with Huron Cement and Ace for decades, treatment is equal or better than a normal customer, and the owner of Huron Cement or Ace is not directly involved in the sale (the maintenance staff buys the stuff for the school and the quotes in the documents for Huron Cement come from a sales rep of the company, not John Caporini). And the board and district knew he owned the company. As I said before the charges of corruption and rules violations seem misguided... but it is also apparent that those of you making these claims have ulterior motives, so there is really no point in continuing the conversation here.

whazup

Read the email posted by another blogger. Even the lawyer for the school district says Caporini is not allowed to sell. I think he is a reasonable person and he doesn't agree with you. Contrary to what you say, criminal charges can be brought against Caporini. If he has half a brain and cares anything about his family, he will admit to wrong doing, pay back the money he was paid and resign.

Dudley Do-Right

The discharge hose example is included on the first pages Alissa just posted.

Ace Hardware had to stop selling to Huron schools when Tim Sowecke was elected to the Board of Education. I heard Mr. Sowecke explain at a Board meeting, he asked the school treasurer, Mr. Weiss, if continuing the supplier/vendor relationship between Ace Hardware and Huron schools was a conflict since he was an elected Board member and Mr. Weiss informed him it was not an issue. Mr. Asher shortly thereafter questioned whether the school district could continue to buy from Ace Hardware thus Mr. Sowecke realized he could NOT BY LAW continue to sell to the school district. So Ace Hardware stopped selling to the school district.

Why did Mr. Asher question Mr. Sowecke's business dealings and not Mr. Caporini's?

The bottom line is .... a board member can not be a vendor.

carhaulerdave

Huron Cement is a ready mix concrete plant, not a paving contractor(asphalt or concrete). They also sell building products. You can't blame Huron Cement because they are the only concrete supplier in Huron. If the contractor that did the bus garage could have gotten a better deal on concrete from Norwalk, Castalia, or Vermilion, you can bet your a** they would have. I do not know why it was changed from asphalt to concrete, but concrete will stand up to the weight of the busses much better than asphalt. The upfront costs are higher, but you get a much more durable and longer lasting product. That would be a really good and logical reason for the change. This whole ethics inquiry got brought up because there is a school board election this fall and the town is divided. Caporini and Sowecke(Ace Hardware owner) both do business with the schools because they both provide necessary products and services. They are allowed to profit to as long as they can do it at the lowest cost to the school. Would it make more sense to have a school employee drive to Sandusky on the clock to make a purchase that could be made locally? To accuse either of these 2 of unethical behavior simply because they do business with the schools is a low blow and pure political horse poop. Whatever side you are on, Fred Fox is gone and he is not coming back. We should just hope that the cost of this whole mess isn't too great.

Darwin's choice

^^^^This^^^^!

Justme...

I wish we could see these latest receipts to see if they include this concrete work. Any concrete work that Huron Cement was hired to do for the distict through another contracter wouldn't show up on these receipts.

Folks, it doesn't matter what you THINK is ok. A board member is not allowed to profit from the district. Period. We can't make up our own rules.

If you think this is political horse poop I assume you are furious with Kevin Asher for bringing it up in the first place, against Ace Hardware shortly after he was on the losing side of a vote.

Alissa Widman Neese's picture
Alissa Widman Neese

They're posted now.

whazup

This explains the purpose of Ethics Laws and what they mean: http://www.uc.edu/content/dam/uc...
Doesn't matter if you agree, it's the law and when you don't follow the law, you have to answer for it. I agree with the other poster who said Asher brought it up against Sowecke and now Cap has to answer for it.

Julie R.

This whole fiasco reminds me of that famous quote:

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."

whazup

Not seeing a whole lot of receipts for concrete or concrete related items. What I am seeing is Blodgett's signature on requisitions, Fred Fox's signature on purchase order after purchase order authorizing purchase orders from Huron Cement and Mr. Weis cutting checks to pay it. There isn't any amount that it allowed to be authorized or paid unless it was disclosed to the board prior to ordering, Cap kept his nose out of discussions, and the board publicly approved it with Cap voting. None of that happened, but Cap followed the law. LOL They had a sweet thing going on until Cap shot hit mouth in front of the OEC investigator in March. HAHAHAHAHA

Wa Tu Lo

The blueprint of the bus garage said blacktop. That was the only major change of concern. How much more did that cost taxpayers? I understand that the people of Huron should shop locally. I do not care going west to shop because of traffic, but Huron is limited on what you can buy. Asher and Caporini had a sweet deal with their buddy Fox on purchasing items and getting family jobs. Do you recall Fox telling Rupp that people looking for homes in Huron should go to Lighthouse Reality? Was that an ethics violation? There are people in Huron that make a living selling real estate. They are not exempt from paying taxes. If you were one of his friends you got preferential treatment. That was proven with "tool gate'. These people thought they were above the law and the rest of us are what Fox calls "underlings".

We as taxpayers will never know all the corruption that took place during Fox's tenure. It is slowly coming out a little bit at a time, and we are finding out why people supported him. Fox, and his friends, have deceived the Huron taxpayer for years, and now it is time for the taxpayer to get justice.

UgtaBkdnMe

Preach it, brother!

Justme...

Folks, this the problem. Certain people feel because they did "A", they are allowed to break rule "B". Come on! This is a school system!!! And along with that, they convince the business community they are the be-all-end-all, and somehow get these people to rally around them when they are called out for wrong doings. They hire attorneys rather than admit their violations. THIS IS A SCHOOL DISTRICT. WE SHOULD EXPECT AT LEAST AS MUCH FROM ITS LEADERS AS WE DO FROM ITS STUDENTS. If there is anyone out there, who still doesn't get this, well, I'm at a loss.

UgtaBkdnMe

Absolutely! Hopefully voters will remember that Caporini has endorsed three of the candidates for board. Two of these three are not new blood. They are part of the good old boy system that has promoted years of "I'll scratch your back and you scratch mine." Wa Tu Lo is spot on. There is a reason why Fox, Asher, Bulea, and Caporini stick together. I'll be voting but it won't be for A-B-M.

Dudley Do-Right

Did you ever wonder why? Someone from Sandusky steals and we call them a thug. Someone from Huron steals and we say it is the way business is done.

UgtaBkdnMe

That's because in Huron the names end in vowels...LOL

Tsu Dho Nimh

Thank you, Alissa, for sharing the invoices. The good people of Huron deserve to know the truth.

UgtaBkdnMe

Here's a public record. The school board's attorney spells out why Caporini can't sell to the district.

From: Gaschen, Dane
Date: Mon, Aug 6, 2012 at 3:51 PM
Subject: Ethics Concerns and Course of Dealing Exception [BRICKER-WS.FID191447]
To: michael_weis@huron-city.k12.oh.us

Mike,
In response to XXXXXX ‘s questions from this morning. The one statute at issue is R.C. 2921.42. In terms of whether the course of dealing exception applies, as noted in Ethics Opinion 90-003 (copy sent separately this morning) on page 4 it notes that if any material changes are made in the agreement between the parties the sales would not fall within the exemption because such changes alter the original understanding between the parties. Separately, in Ethics Opinion 90-005 (copy sent separately this morning) the Ethics Commission stated that each individual sale was a separate transaction and thus prevented the continuing course of dealing exception from applying. This would appear to be particularly applicable to your situation with the hardware store. Additionally, I have attached three other Ethics Opinions that addressed the exception in 2921.42. All of these would show that each contract that Mr. Caporini is involved in would need to be considered separately and does not constitute a continuing course of action. Further, there is an additional statute (attached) R.C. 3313.33 which prohibits a board member from having directly or indirectly any pecuniary interest in any contract of the board. So, even if you could get past the ethical considerations, R.C. 3313.33 prevents board members from having a pecuniary interest –directly or indirectly – in any contract entered into by the Board.

I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you need anything additional.
-Dane

Dudley Do-Right

Thanks UgtaBkdnMe for sharing. This is coming from the Board's attorney saying a Board member's business can not do business with the school district. Gee, I wonder what his motive might be? Seems like if you disagree with Mr. Caporini you must have some motive behind your opinion because there is no way you could be right.