Editorial - Allegations against Mohip demand independent probe


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As much as we hate to admit it, Dario Hunter, a member of the Youngstown Board of Education, is right in disparaging the investigation of the district’s chief executive officer, Krish Mohip.

Hunter is also on the mark in demanding that Brian Benyo, former chairman of the Youngstown City School District Academic Distress Commission, provide details of the complaint he filed against Mohip.

Benyo alleged that the CEO may have engaged in “inappropriate conduct with respect to a female attorney” and a job applicant, according to Ohio Department of Education documents obtained by The Vindicator.

Benyo did not identify the alleged victims.

“If he felt strongly enough to make this complaint, I would hope that as a former chair of the ADC, there was something behind it,” Hunter said in a news release. “Such a serious allegation from the chair of the body that hired Mohip shouldn’t be swept under the rug.”

While Benyo needs to fill in the blanks, the Ohio Department of Education should know the investigation is being viewed skeptically because of the law firm selected to conduct it.

ODE asked Baker & Hostetler to look into the complaint against Mohip, who has a business relationship with the firm.

Last year, the chief executive officer approved the payment of $700,000 to Baker & Hostetler for legal work done on behalf of the school district.

The department of education is aware of this relationship and yet asked B&H to investigate Benyo’s complaint.

Atty. Todd Lebowitz of B&H sent a letter to the state saying “… [W]e have no reason to believe any inappropriate conduct occurred.”

After Lebowitz concluded his investigation, Atty. Megan Blair Zidian, a partner in the Columbus law firm Ennis Britton Co., LPA, issued a public statement acknowledging that Lebowitz had contacted her about the complaint.

Zidian, who has served as Mohip’s legal adviser, denied there had been any inappropriate conduct toward her by the CEO.

Hunter questions the legitimacy of the investigation, saying, “At every turn, when it comes to alleged violations, it appears that the wolves are guarding the hen house.”

UNIMPRESSED WITH HUNTER

While we find ourselves on the same page as Hunter on this issue, we are unimpressed with his conduct as a public official.

Indeed, our misgivings about him were confirmed last year when he ran as an independent candidate for clerk of Youngstown Municipal Court.

He challenged incumbent Democrat Sarah Brown-Clark in the November general election and leveled accusations of inefficient operations and lackluster management of the office.

Hunter, who has garnered public attention by challenging the leadership of the school board and questioning some school district practices, did not provide any evidence to support his criticism of Brown-Clark.

The incumbent, who easily won re-election, provided a point-by-point rebuttal of her challenger’s claims.

We’ve come across too many candidates for office who are willing to say anything to grab the attention of the electorate. It’s a phenomenon that has contributed to the deterioration of this nation’s political discourse.

That’s why we began this editorial with “As much as we hate to admit it …”

Hunter is on the right track with his conclusions about the Mohip investigation. We, therefore, urge the Ohio Department of Education to hire an independent entity to launch a new probe.

There’s a need to start from the very beginning, when former distress commission chairman Benyo contacted the department of education and alleged that Mohip may have engaged in “inappropriate conduct” with a female lawyer and a job applicant.

The question that the Mahoning Valley businessman must answer is quite straightforward: What made you believe the information about Mohip’s behavior was credible enough to share with department of education officials?

Given that the subject of the allegations was the school district’s chief executive officer with sweeping powers under state law, the department had no choice but to investigate.

It is both surprising and unfortunate that no one involved in this matter recognized the obvious conflict of having the law firm hired by Mohip to deal with the district’s labor issues conduct the investigation of him.

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