Monday, December 20, 2010

Charter school officers liable to state as "public officials," Supreme Court rules

The Supreme Court of Ohio unanimosuly held today that an officer, employee or duly authorized agent of a community school that receives public funds under R.C. Chapter 3314 falls within the statutory definition of a “public official,” and therefore such persons may be personally liable to the state for lost or misspent public funds.

In that case, the defendant was treasurer of the board of directors of a charter school that ultimately failed. An investigation by the State Auditor's office found that the school had been overpaid by around $1.5 million dollars by over-inflating its enrollment numbers.

The state sought recovery of the overpaid funds from the defendant who argued that she was not personally liable for the funds because she was an officer of the corporation who was shielded from liability. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that she was a public official.

The case now goes back to the trial court in Cleveland to make the determination as to whether or not the defendant's responsibilities at at the charter school included the receipt or collection of public money, or whether she supervised employees who received or collected public money under color of office.

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