In case you missed it… Ohio taxpayers are still waiting — and will be waiting for at least another year — for repayment of the tens of millions of dollars owed by the sham online charter school Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow and its founder, Bill Lager, as Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost continues to delay the case, according to reporting by the Cleveland Plain Dealer this weekend.
Delays and holiday-week news dumps are par for the course for Ohio’s Republican leaders, who took big campaign checks from Lager and ECOT-connected donors.
During the week of Thanksgiving 2018, then-Auditor Dave Yost finally released an audit examining the 2015 “Chartergate” scandal, in which Ohio Department of Education officials tried to rig data to benefit online charter schools, like ECOT. No one was ever held accountable in this scandal.
During the week of Christmas 2018, Ohio Inspector General Randall Meyer released a long-delayed report prompted by a 2014 complaint of retaliation from a whistleblower who was critical of the performance of IQ Innovations — a company owned by Lager. No one was ever held accountable for this scandal.
Ohio’s attempt to recover up to $60 million from ECOT founder William Lager and his business partners has been delayed — again — until late next year.
The state has been trying for a few years to recover millions in overpayments to the former Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow online school, once the largest school in Ohio.
But progress has been slow, both because the school closed before it could repay all of the $80 million it owed, and because a 2018 lawsuit against Lager to recover the balance has been delayed a few times.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost recently joined Lager and his codefendants to request the latest delay, which was granted by Franklin County Common Pleas Court. A new trial date won’t be set until a Sept. 15 status conference.
Although Gov. Mike DeWine filed the case in 2018, when he was still running for governor, court records say the defendants just “located” 50,000 new documents in September that the state had requested.
The delay angers lawyers for school districts who are fighting in court to become part of the complaint against Lager. They say in court filings that Yost, who took over the case from DeWine when he became attorney general in January, is a “friendly associate of Bill Lager” and “has not actively prosecuted this case.”
Ellen Kramer, a Cleveland-based lawyer for the districts which include Dayton, Toledo and Cuyahoga Falls, said Yost’s history of speaking at ECOT graduations while serving as state auditor, giving ECOT clean audits and taking campaign donations from Lager until the political tide was turning against the school, makes the delay questionable.
“I think it’s additional evidence that the AG does not have a lot of interest in pursuing Bill Lager and the other entities involved in all this corruption,” said Kramer.
A Franklin County Common Pleas court denied the districts that right to be part of the case, but they have since appealed and hope for a ruling early next year.
Kramer acknowledged that reviewing documents takes time, just not as much as Yost requested.
“The case has been pending for 16 months and there are a lot of attorneys Dave Yost has at his disposal that can review that paperwork,” she said.
She also questioned why Yost has not sought legal control over several properties Lager owns, that could be sold to cover any judgment against him. Those include a Key West, Florida, mansion and a cottage along Seneca Lake in southwest Ohio. Yost has attached one Lager property, a downtown Columbus apartment Lager owns.
Cleveland Plain Dealer: Yost delays case against ECOT founder William Lager