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
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

whazup

Now I'm laughing. I've heard that a certain realtor has been pressuring people to place signs in their yards, including family members. Have you ever noticed that so many yards with Lighthouse signs also have the block signs? Don't know anything about confidential literature in a bank depository box but there should be security cameras. I have heard about missing signs and a few candidates have filed police reports. If Green, Slocum and Catri supporters are stealing ABM signs, then who is stealing Green, Slocum and Catri signs? Sounds like Ugta is right when saying its just a bunch of kids. I will say that I noticed several AMB signs come down after the Ethics story on Caporini came out, including a certain brick house on Cleveland Rd. Don't confuse people changing their mind about who they support with theft.

Dudley Do-Right

Truth and Justice you lie on the blogs!!! Catri didn't say everybody lies under oath. You must be hittin' the bottle or your hearing aid battery went dead.

I haven't seen any literature from Green, Slocum and Catri but I have received several pieces from A B M. With each piece of literature I receive from the A B M PAC, I read an article or letter in the Sandusky Register, Huron Hometown News, or read the school district website and find out the PAC literature is spinning with mis-information.

Wa Tu Lo

I have lived in Huron all my life.I find it appalling and pathetic the way some people will misconstrue the truth to benefit themselves or some else. I was at the school board meeting the other night and I did not ever here Ms. Catri say "that everyone lies under oath". If you want to read about people lying under oath, read those pathetic reports from some of the people that testified under oath and the referee's final decision. You know who I am talking about. They have been mailing and spreading lies for a long time now.

The township trustee's and Kalahari agreed on tax abatement for fifteen years and the amount of tax dollars that Kalahari would pay that would go to McCormick Junior High. Never was anything said about free money given to that school. That person lied at that March Board meeting.

Julie R.

If Ms. Catri really said "everyone lies under oath" she would be partially correct. I know for a fact attorneys do. I know for a fact judges do, too.

UgtaBkdnMe

For the record, she didn't but I know what point you're trying to make.

Dudley Do-Right

Let's do the math: The McCormick project is estimated to cost between $600,000-$700,000. The 15 year tax abate Kalahari agreed to is for 15 years at approximately $52,000 per year, which will generate $780,000. Now the ABM campaign would like us to believe Mr. Nelson was going to donate an additional $600,000 for the project; suddenly the cost of the project doubled? Wow I want to be one of the contractors on this job.

whazup

And Huron Cement can supply the material, at a reduced rate, of course!

Brandy1976

All of the newly renovated football stadiums in the area, Huron, Sandusky, and Perkins were built with significant help from a financial partner. Cedar Point donated to Sandusky and Dick Kinzel personally donated over $100,000 for the Sandusky scoreboard. Firelands hospital donated to Perkins. Kalahari donated $200,000 plus gave water park tickets to sell for Huron. Thank goodness each community has an organization and someone who cares about kids.

However, Huron makes Mr. Nelson sound like his loyalty is to Fred Fox and not the kids. And now they make him look like he is trying to bribe the voter: elect my friends, make my friend the superintendent and I will donate $600,000. Really, this is the way you want to portray Mr. Nelson?

whazup

Brandy, the community is not trying to portray Mr. Nelson in a bad light. Good friend Mr. Wechter has been running his mouth about all of the things Mr. Nelson was going to do but won't anymore. It just isn't true. Board members Asher and Caporini, along with former board member Bulea, have been spewing the same. Unfortunately for Mr. Nelson, when the record is set straight on their lies, he is the center of it. Mr. Nelson should find a better class of friends.

UgtaBkdnMe

Brandy,
I think I note a sense of sarcasm in your comment. This testimony sure sounds like a man who is about the kids and not loyal to his good friend, Fred. (yes, this is sarcasm)

2250
I Q Okay. I take it that things have changed since
2 thls matter involving Fred Fox has started; IS that
3 correct?

4 MS. SZUBERLA: Objection, leadlng.

5 A I don't even like driving through Huron any more.

6 Q Pardon? I didn' t hear you.

7 A I don't even like driving through Huron any more.

8 Q What happened?

9 A The three clowns on the school board that are
10 literally criminal in how they've acted have
11 literally ruined everything.

12 Q Okay.

13 A Building that field, for my wife and I, there's a
14 video out there, Pat, the night that we dedicated
15 the field, and I've done a lot of projects and done
16 a lot of really good things in my life, and I never
17 felt as good as my wife and I did that night
1 8 standing out in that field, and these guys for
1 9 whatever ulterior motive they had to go after Fred,
20 they have ruined every bit of goodwill humanly
21 possible, and I wouldn't do anything, nothing right
2 2 now. I don't even come to Ohio as much as I used
23 to any more.

Kleist For Kids

I am tired of the bickering. Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, bottom line when you look at ODE's data, the school district could do a much better job of ensuring all students are proficient and meeting the needs of all students, from gifted to students with disabilities. Why hasn't the district met AYP for the last 3 years? Why do 42% (average for past 10 years) of Huron HS grads need to take remedial level classes in college? Why does the district only compare itself to other districts within Erie county? That is not setting the bar very high.

Please, someone needs to put the focus back on education. These are the types of things the school board should be addressing, but has not in the past nor presently.

I'm curious how many people making comments here have children in the district? Or how many of you have actually talked to the teachers or other employees of the district? The general consensus seems to be that they do not want Mr. Fox back. One teacher even said it would be like taking 3 steps backwards if he were reinstated. How effective could a leader be if he lost the trust and respect of his employees? How would this benefit the district?

I also find it appalling and fiscally irresponsible the amount of money that is being spent for a school board campaign. It is for a school board! I wonder how many teachers could have been sent for additional training in the Wilson Reading Program with the amount of money that has been spent on this campaign. Teachers only received 1 day of training, and this is not nearly enough.

I received a 4th flyer in the mail today, filled with propaganda based on partial truths at best. There are 4,369 registered voter households in Huron. At least $4,700 have been spent in just postage alone (based on $0.27 per piece postage, an estimate given to me by Loris printing when I looked into doing mailers), then add a conservative estimate of $1,800 for the mailers for a total of $6,500 for mailers that have been sent thus far. Thousands of dollars have been spent on yard signs. I estimate at least $10,000 has been spent for a school board campaign by the PAC! Why???? Is this fiscally responsible?

As a parent of children in the district, I implore you to vote based on the candidates’ qualifications rather than based on names, friendships, alliances, how long someone has been a resident of Huron, or who is related to whom. Voting based on anything other than a candidate’s qualifications leads to cronyism and a lack of both transparency and accountability. The future success of the district relies on voters electing qualified board members that have the skills, fortitude, vision and foresight to move the district forward and whose judgment is not clouded by friendships, alliances, vendettas, and personal agendas.

Paid for by Kleist For Kids. http://kleistforkids.com/

Informed

"Why do 42% (average for past 10 years) of Huron HS grads need to take remedial level classes in college?"

I don't know if that is true, or where that data comes from. Huron has no way to know what courses it's former students take in college. But regardless, I can answer it to some degree. The reason is that Huron HS pushes everyone into going to college, whether they are college material or not. No one tells these kids what is realistic given their abilities and aptitude. There are so many kids who go to college who have no business being there, and many of them flunk out or drop out after a year or so. Huron needs to encourage more vocational training.

Kleist For Kids

The data came from https://www.ohiohighered.org/dat.... My website http://kleistforkids.com/ has links to all the sources I used.

Paid for by Kleist for Kids. Apparently this disclaimer needs to be on just about everything, including free sites like facebook.

Informed

I would question how accurate that is. There is no way for any agency to know what courses kids are taking in college is they don't go to a state university in Ohio. Many Huron students go to private and out-of-state colleges.

Wa Tu Lo

The three clowns went after Fred because he is a corrupt person. Would you keep a person employed who steals taxpayers money,tools,extra marital affair on your dollar, turns in mileage to go visit his mistress,etc. There are many more corrupt things I could mention but I'll let the courts handle that. Fox and his friends are evil. They will look you in the eyes and lie right to your face. Lenny and Squiggy have done it many times at board meetings.

betweenlines

They went after Fred because two respected principals had the courage to say he wasn't doing his job. And then the rest of the dominos fell. Let's not forget the REAL reason this all got started.

Truth and Justice

Did anyone read the Fraud report recently posted on the PAC web site. Sent to Attorney General. Geez what next. Just when you think you've seen it all.

whazup

Nah, we haven't seen it all. As long as there are folks like you and your troop of Fox worshipers, there surely will be more come. Mud slinging is a sign of desperation. Personally, I would rather be accused of breaking a Sunshine Law than being investigated by the OEC for abusing my position as a board member. Wonder which of the two carries a larger penalty?

concerned huron...

Has anyone else noticed that Mike Tann is no longer treasurer of the PAC?

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