By Marc Kovac
The head of the Ohio Department of Education is apologizing after testifying in favor of legislation that could have benefited a company that had offered him a job and for using state employees and resources for his personal benefit.
Stan Heffner offered the mea culpa after the Ohio Inspector General uncovered the wrongdoing as part of an investigation requested by a Democratic state lawmaker.
According to the investigation, Heffner, serving as interim director of the state agency at the time, was supporting legislation that could have increased state contracts with Educational Testing Services, “the nation’s largest private, nonprofit educational testing and research company.”
Heffner had accepted employment offer with Educational Testing Services and planned to leave his state position and move to Texas. He later reversed course, however, after being named to the state superintendent position on a permanent basis.
The inspector general also found that Heffner used his state-issued cell phone and email account as part of his interaction with the company and had secretaries schedule airline flights, communicate with real estate agents and make other personal arrangements.
Heffner said in a released statement that he accepted the findings and “was wrong and I’m sorry for my lack of judgment. I’ve apologized to my staff, my friends and colleagues at the department and the board. I have learned from my mistakes, and I will work with the board to take whatever steps they feel are necessary to resolve this matter and move forward.”
The inspector general did not refer the case to prosecutors but has asked the state board of education to consider “whether administrative action is warranted.”
In a released statement, board President Debe Terhar said the matter would be taken up at the board’s September meeting.
“I appreciate the inspector general’s thorough report and am disturbed by its findings,” she said. “State Superintendent Stan Heffner is a dedicated educator who is committed to the education reforms Ohio needs for our children, but in this matter he demonstrated a woeful lack of judgment. The board will quickly study the report’s findings to fully understand if there are any implications that must be considered and acted upon.”
Gov. John Kasich’s office offered a comparable statement.
“He is doing a very good job as superintendent, but using official resources the way he did and demonstrating that kind of bad judgment is unacceptable,” said spokesman Rob Nichols. “The governor is confident that the State Board of Education understands that and will take the right steps.”