Board members focus of ethics probe

The Huron school district doesn’t appear to have the documents necessary that would allow it to do business with the companies owned by two board members.
Alissa Widman Neese
Oct 15, 2013
The Ohio Ethics Commission appears to be investigating Huron board members John Caporini and Tim Sowecke, owners of Huron Cement and Ace Hardware, respectively.

Huron Schools has purchased products from both businesses on multiple occasions during each man’s time on the board, which is allowable if certain conditions are met.

There are three state-mandated requirements, including filing an affidavit with the district stating their exact employment within their agency, according the section of state law that outlines appropriate behavior of board members.

District treasurer Mike Weis said no affidavits were ever filed with Huron Schools, to his knowledge.

“I am unaware of any,” Weis stated in an email. “There may be some emails where this was discussed, but I would have no way to search by that criteria as we do not store that way.”

The other two criteria: The board member is “employed by a political subdivision, instrumentality or agency contracting with the board” and the board member does not vote on the contract, according to Ohio Revised Code.

Without the documents, any other exceptions for doing business with Huron Schools are moot, as all criteria must be met, according to state law.

A few months ago, the Ohio Ethics Commission requested invoices and paperwork regarding Huron Schools purchases at both Huron Cement and Ace Hardware. The Register obtained the documents this past month through a public records request.

The documents indicate Huron Schools paid Huron Cement about $30,000 over 64 transactions from 2002-12. 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 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.

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

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

• The purchase is part of a continuing transaction that existed before he or she was elected, or the goods and services are unobtainable elsewhere for the same or lower cost.

• 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.

• The board member has taken no part in the deliberations or decisions concerning the transaction.

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

Caporini’s attorney provided the Register with a statement Friday, explaining Huron Cement has a history of business with Huron Schools, predating his tenure on the school board. The company also provided its products and services at comparable or lesser prices, the statement continued.

Sowecke, meanwhile, said he talked with Weis after winning a school board seat in 2011 to confirm Ace Hardware could still do business with the district, with Weis stating it could. Email exchanges with district officials confirmed this statement.

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

Comments

Brick Hamland

Do the math on the transactions with Ace Hardware, it is roughly $138 a transaction. Who cares? $4,000 over a span of 2 years... Huron Cement dates back 10 years and the total amount is only $30,000. What a waste of time looking into this stuff. I can only imagine the cost of the investigation. Seems like there are more important things to be looking into. Fill out the affidavits and put the issue to rest. A few more articles on this and the reporter would have made more than Ace Hardware... hope that is true reporter! :)

Clark W. Griswald

Where else is huron supposed to get concrete?

worddrow811

Cantelli Block and concrete is in the township, behind Arby's.

yeswee's picture
yeswee

Start working at home with Google! Its by-far the best job Ive had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. Useful Reference http://ow.ly/pAu07
WORK LESS EARN MORE

2sense

This is another small town witchhunt.

Informed

So expecting elected officials to follow proper regulations, and investigating when they don't, is a witchhunt? Nope. It's called the LAW! No wonder shady stuff like this goes on, with people like you and Brick making excuses and rationalizing unethical behavior.
Principles and ethics matter!!

bnjjad

Yes principles and ethics matter but what are they going to do? Fine them? Fire them and not do business any longer? what happens when you need a special concrete product? Since they were providing discounts I highly doubt that this is in regards to trying to make more money off these sales but were trying to do something good for the district when they could.

Yes they need to make changes to the quoting procedures and get paperwork filed, but this really is a non-issue. I do not think that $34000 in expenditures with a potential small savings is really worth all of this trouble and bad press.

You are making it out to be like the world is collapsing because Huron Cement charged $10K for a hammer that was only $10. When it probably in reverse. (not all companies are Walmart and can offer bargain basement prices, but established corporate relationships mean a lot, especially a local school doing business with a local company who hires local people who pay local taxes who have kids in the local school.)

Darwin's choice

^^This^^

Keep spending money to prove a point. You've already tossed away more than the total of both these on the last witch hunt. Fred's gone, time for the Board to stop the bleeding...Yes, some will argue it's the law, but, how much does stupid cost? Move on.

Informed

The board isn't spending money on this, nor investigating this. The OEC is. And the Fox situation was in no way a witchhunt. The guy was slime, and it's a good thing he is gone.
You want to talk about tossing away money--should we begin with how much Fox cost the district in teachers winning grievances because he would not follow the contract?

Justme...

Oh Darwin give me a break. You know darn well the district isn't spending money on this. The OEC is conducting the investigation and the Register is conducting an investigation. The law is the law. Be angry at those who broke it, not those who expect elected officials to follow it. Moving on is much easier when people admit they did something wrong. Hiring attorneys and denying doesn't help us move on.

bnjjad

And guilty before proven innocent has reared its head again.

Informed

Gris, most of the transactions with Huron Cement aren't even for cement; they are for other items that can and should have been purchased elsewhere. Even if it was for cement, there are still procedures that have to be followed and requirements that have to be met. Caporini did neither. In fact, when questioned about it by Catri, he would become defensive and arrogant.
Brick, even if the affidavit is filed, Caporini's business with the board still doesn't follow the OEC regulations. I'm not sure about Sowecke's. However, Asher started this whole thing by accusing Sowecke, forgetting about his pal Cap. And it is Cap who is the worst offender, in that at least Sowecke has emails with the treasurer trying to verify the approval of doing business.

Justme...

Sowecke isn't saying it was ok to do business with district, and explains why he thought it WAS ok. Caporini hires and lawyer and denies wrong-doing. Hmmm...where have we seen THAT before?

AEversole

Informed, get a life. This is so petty and pathetic. You should be happy that the money is spent in Huron and that it helps support local buisness and the community as a whole. Because they didn't dot the I or cross the T, you are acting as if they are involved in corruption and scandals. Who cares if they didn't get the stamp of approval. They both want to better the district and the community and are now being targeted by these ignorant and pathetic allegations of wrong doing........get a clue and take your right hand, reach behind you and remove that stick that is stuck right above your thigh and right below your lower back...

Justme...

Eversole, take the time to read the articles. This is not about crossing T's and dotting I's. The 4 criteria that would make it ok to sell to the district were not not met. And even if all four were met, paperwork was not filled out.

Informed

I am happy when the law is followed, and elected officials act with ethics and principles. Keep rationalizing illegal behavior. And sweeping things under the rug is corruption!
These allegations are neither ignorant nor pathetic.

Darwin's choice

Yes, they are. Who is paying for this investigation? Someone is? Not the school board, then the taxpayers of the state! One way or another, we're paying. Are you that dense? And, what do you want in the end? How much is ok with you to throw away on this witch hunt? If the "OEC" spends a million dollars on this, is that ok? Again, how much does stupid cost?

Informed

Then maybe the perpetrator of the wrong-doing ought to be fined to pay for the investigation.
I doubt the OEC employees get paid on a per case basis. They are paid to investigate ethics violations.
What do I want in the end? That's easy--justice. I want ethics rules to be followed, and those who do not to be punished in some way. What good is a rule if there is no consequence for breaking it?

Brick Hamland

@informed. I am not making excuses for them not filling out the paper work, and ended the comment with instructions to them to fill out the affidavit. I am merely saying to sensationalize this as if the two board members made away with some major profits is misleading and the amounts involved are pretty minor. If the janitor from the school walked into Ace Hardware to buy a replacement part for a broken toilet, was the board member suppose to tell him to shop elsewhere because he didn't have the proper work completed... Then the paper could have written an article like "Board Member Refuses to Sell To School- Toilet Floods Hallway"... I don't know why anyone wants to be a school board member, thankless job

Informed

There are four requirements that must be followed for a board member with a business to do business with the district. Those four requirements were not followed, paperwork or not.

Darkhorse

Sweeping ethics under the rug never works and creates bigger problems done the line if not addressed, just ask Cuyahoga County how ignoring it worked for them.

Julie R.

LIKE.

Common_Cents

I'm with the majority on this - it really is no big deal. I'm thankful the money was spent in Huron, at local businesses, which keeps employment up. The invoices reflect that the school paid standard or better prices, and despite what some irrational folks are saying, there is absolutely no evidence of corruption at either the schools or the businesses. These two business owners just didn't file the correct paper work. It is an easy fix - just get the forms filed, and move on. The couple people who incorrectly cry CORRUPTION are just pathetic drains on the rest of our town looking to stir up controversy where there is none.

Informed

You are wrong. It's not just about filing paperwork. You either didn't read the entire article, or you are not comprehending it. The four requirements for a board member with a business to conduct business with the district were not, and never have been, followed. Also, the district did not pay standard or better prices--$69 for a hose from Huron Cement that costs $39 at Menard's. How is that a standard or better price?

Brick Hamland

the standard or better pricing requirement is an "or" requirement with the first half of it being that the relationship existed previoulsy. Paying a local store more may in the end be better for the community. I wonder if Ace employs Huron High School students or graduates who then use that money to buy ice cream at dairy queen which employs Huron residents that spend their paychecks in Huron as well. Or you could pay less at a big box store in Sandusky...

Informed

No,it doesn't say that the relationship existed previously. It states that the transaction existed before the board member was elected. The transactions and projects in question occurred much more recently than eighteen years ago.

Brick Hamland

you either didn't read the entire article, or you are not comprehending it

Informed

I understand it completely. You are trying to give excuses to not follow the regulations.

SoldOnAcorns

Cap's hand has been in the cookie jar for years and there are no more cookies left, sorry pal. Right is right and wrong is wrong no matter which way y'all try to spin it ! This is black and white, very easy to understand for most. Except for the GOB network that wants to keep things the way they always have been in Huron. Those days are over my friends, you are under the microscope now. It was a good run though ! Enjoy !

Informed

Exactly! I am sick and tired of the excuses. Wake up, people!

Pages