School & District Management

Ethics Accusation Fired at New State Schools Chief

By Catherine Candisky, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT) — July 19, 2011 2 min read
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Less than a week after being named state schools superintendent, Stan W. Heffner is fending off accusations of ethical misconduct.

A Democratic lawmaker yesterday asked Inspector General Randy Meyer to launch an investigation into whether Heffner improperly tried to steer state business to a company for which he planned to work.

Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Athens, said Heffner, while serving as interim state superintendent and after accepting a job with Educational Testing Services, advocated for legislation that would have benefited the company, which provides certification tests for Ohio teachers.

“Mr. Heffner gave testimony before the Senate Finance Committee in support of legislation that likely meant significant revenues for his new employer. This official action on his part seems to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of Ohio’s ethics law,” Phillips wrote in a letter to Meyer.

Heffner yesterday denied any wrongdoing.

“I am confident that I have no conflict of interest and am working to move the Ohio Department of Education forward. I am committed to full transparency and welcome ongoing review,” he said in a statement released by his office.

Heffner has been an associate superintendent of the state agency since 2004. He was named interim superintendent in May after Deborah Delisle resigned, and was to leave in August to take a job with Educational Testing Services in Texas. Last week, Heffner decided to stay when the state board offered him the superintendent’s post permanently.

The inspector general’s office had no comment about Phillips’ complaint. As a general rule, the office does not confirm or deny whether it has received a complaint or whether it will conduct an investigation, said Deputy Inspector General Carl Enslen.

Phillips did not return messages left at her legislative office yesterday.

At issue is testimony Heffner gave in May before the Senate Finance Committee supporting the budget bill. Specifically, he told lawmakers he favored provisions to retest teachers in low-performing schools and discussed how other provisions in the legislation matched a new teacher evaluation model the Education Department was developing.

He did not mention that the proposals could benefit the company he was planning to join.

When the issue surfaced last week, Heffner said he had not been involved in the work Educational Testing Services had done with the Education Department. Since 2007, the company has handled teacher testing overseen by the agency’s Center for the Teaching Profession.

The Education Department said Heffner was in charge of its Center for Curriculum and Assessment, which is not involved in teacher testing. In 2006, Educational Testing Services bid to work on the Ohio Graduation Test, which Heffner oversaw, but was not awarded the contract.

The liberal blog Plunderbund last week filed a similar complaint against Heffner with the Ohio Ethics Commission.

Copyright (c) 2011, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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