Yost Says Former Columbus School Superintendent Still Key Figure In Scandal

Published: .
Updated: .

State Auditor Dave Yost, appearing on 10TVs Capitol Square, said former Columbus schools Superintendent Gene Harris should be held accountable for a data manipulation scandal that has rocked central Ohio.

"I'm convinced Gene Harris knew what was going on," said Yost.  "Now she may not have directed it, we can't really tell based on the evidence.  We've not heard from her but we have multiple witness interviews.  One of the most notable incidents was this was discussed in her presence with some high level staff on how to improve the attendance numbers and she put her hands over her ears like 'hear no evil, see no evil.'  She clearly knew what was going on.  Did she know the extent or did she come up with the plan?  These are unanswered questions."

Yost's audit found more than half a million student absences were erased, and more than 7,000 grades changed, during one school year alone.

"There is ground here for prosecution," said Yost.  "We've turned this over to the federal authorities as well as the state and local prosecutors.  It's not my job to tell them how to evaluate a case, there can be differences of opinion among professionals, but I will be most disappointed if there are no prosecutions that come out of this."

Two central Ohio political strategists agree that it is unlikely that charges will ever be filed.

"As bad as this scandal was, even the auditor himself said, the motive wasn't money, it was a misguided attempt to make schools in the district look good," said Dale Butland from Innovation Ohio.  "County prosecutor Ron O'Brien has already hinted that proving criminal charges may be difficult if there's no financial motive."

Longtime media consultant Bob Clegg agrees.

"There should be charges but I doubt there will be," said Clegg.  "It's amazing these administrators cared more about cheating and making their schools and themselves look better than they cared about educating children."

You can watch the entire interview with auditor Dave Yost Sunday on Capitol Square.  It airs at 11:30 a.m., right after Face the Nation, on 10TV.