Ohio’s School Superintendent Resigns Amid Lobbying Scandal

Stan Heffner, Ohio’s Schools Superintendent, resigned this last weekend after he was accused of an inappropriate relationship with a company that is a contractor for the state’s education department. An investigation by the state’s inspector general found that last year Heffner lobbied on behalf of a private education company without disclosing the fact that he planned to seek employment with the company in the near future.

The inspector general’s report claims that Heffner testified in favor of a legislation that would benefit long-time Ohio vendor Educational Testing Service while at the same time negotiating for a job there. In addition, he took money from the company for travel expenses to research the move to San Antonio, Texas, where he was projected to work.

Heffner’s testimony in front of the Senate Finance Committee was in support of legislation that would increase testing requirements in Ohio’s school and would use exams provided by ETS.

Although the report findings didn’t recommend lodging a criminal complaint against Heffner, the results of the investigation were forwarded to the local prosecutor’s office.

The inspector general concluded that Heffner’s conduct met the definition in Ohio law of a “wrongful act or omission,” meaning he failed to meet the standards of proper governmental conduct and subverted the process of government.

The inspector general recommended the State Board of Education, to which Heffner reports, consider administrative action. Heffner, who issued a statement apologizing for his conduct, said he will not resign in light of the report, education department spokesman John Charlton said.

After the findings were made public, Democratic Ohio lawmakers called on Governor John Kasich to fire Heffner, but the spokesman for the Governor said at the time that Heffner’s misdeeds should be weighed against his success at his job. The Kasich administration felt that although some disciplinary action was warranted, dismissal was not.

Despite the Governor’s support, Heffner chose to resign effective this Friday. He didn’t give a reason for his decision and a two-sentence letter served as his resignation notice to the Ohio Education Department.

Still, Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern, who called on Kasich to fire Heffner last week, said that the resignation will not only allow Heffner the chance to pick his own departure date, but also cost the state an additional $4,500 in salary. Redfern reiterated his appeal to Kasich to fire Heffner immediately instead of allowing him to continue for another week.

Kasich referred to the resignation as a “retirement” in a statement on Saturday, and called the decision “the right one.” He said Heffner’s “mistakes in judgment were unfortunate, but I respect him for always putting Ohio’s students above everything else, including his own interests.”

Deputy Superintendent Michael Sawyers will become acting superintendent.