Ohio’s state auditor told Columbus City Schools that criminal charges could come following an attendance probe.
10 Investigates obtained the letter Auditor Dave Yost’s office sent to the school district with those allegations and several others last week.
The letter, sent last Thursday, said that “There is a strong likelihood that at the conclusion of the CCS investigation, individuals will be referred for criminal prosecution.”
The auditor’s office said that it does not believe investigators have received all records and that district interviews with staff interfered with the auditor’s investigation.
The letter came as the state auditor investigates allegations that the district manipulated its attendance records to improve its standings to possibly receive more federal funds.
The auditor’s office told 10 Investigates that it has separated the Columbus City School District from other districts as part of its investigation.
Bill Owen, the auditor’s office’s top attorney, said that it was clear his work could lead to criminal charges.
“You’re going to have the possibility of referrals for prosecution,” Owen said.
Owen said that investigators found that employees who were questioned by the auditor were later subjected to interference and intimidation by their bosses.
“When I see a witness who was talked to by an administrator and the next day calls and is crying because they were talked to by an administrator and they’re worried, they’re going to lose their job, that gives us rise for concern,” Owen said.
The letter sent to the district also alleged that district officials also purposefully changed grades from Fs to Ds, which could have serious consequences with the federal government.
Columbus City School officials issued the following statement:
"The Columbus City Schools has confirmed that federal authorities also are involved in the inquiry into questions regarding student accountability data. Columbus City Schools has communicated with the federal authorities and has assured them of the District’s full cooperation in their investigation. The District is unable to comment further on the federal involvement at this time."
According to a letter sent from CCS in response to the auditor’s office’s letter, the district’s attorney said:
“Let me be very clear, we are not aware and do not believe that anyone acting on behalf of the district has interfered in any way with your investigation or in any way intimidated any witness or potential witness. “
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October 18, 2012: Columbus Schools Releases Documents That Led To Attendance Reporting Investigation
October 4, 2012: Columbus Schools Attendance Policy Among 5 Questioned
September 10, 2012: School Attendance Scandal Costing Taxpayers Thousands
September 10, 2012: Auditor: Probe Not Affected By Report Card Release
August 10, 2012: Auditor Receives 2 Dozen Calls Regarding School Attendance Investigation
August 9, 2012: Hotline Established For Columbus School Employees To Report Attendance Record Manipulation
August 7, 2012: Superintendent: District Did Not Manipulate Data To ‘Cheat
June 15, 2012: Columbus Schools Putting Microscope To Attendance Reporting; Inconsistencies Found