The Ohio Ethics Commission today confirmed in a letter* to state Reps. John Boccieri (D-Poland) and Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) that Youngstown City Schools CEO Kris Mohip is bound by state ethics laws and must file an annual financial disclosure statement with the commission. The letter comes in response to the lawmakers’ inquiry as to whether Mohip must follow ethics laws after news reports found he steered business to a partner company of his former employer. Mohip ended his status as a paid consultant with the partner company the same day the Vindicator confronted him about the seemingly cozy relationship.

Correspondence with state officials revealed that the Youngstown CEO has 'Carte Blanche' authority to manage the district, however the lawmakers say running government like a business becomes complicated with respect to appropriate checks-and-balances.

“I am thankful the Ohio Ethics Commission answered our questions and provided clarity that – even with the privatization of our public schools – a school district CEO still must be fiscally, legally and ethically accountable to the school district and taxpayers,” said Boccieri.

The ethics commission declined to provide an advisory opinion on whether or not Mohip hypothetically broke the law, instead noting an official complaint needs to be made to determine whether to open a confidential investigation. Under Ohio law, anyone may confidentially bring a complaint before the Ohio Ethics Commission for review.

“Our community deserves a system that puts the needs and best interests of our children over the business interests of one person,” said Lepore-Hagan. “Ultimately, we want to ensure that the structure we have in place isn’t fatally flawed, putting our kids at an even greater disadvantage.”

Though the CEO can unilaterally approve contracts and make financial decisions regarding the district, House Bill 70 – the 2015 law that established a state takeover process for failing school districts – gives the academic distress commission say over the CEO’s employment with the district.

With the academic distress commission providing oversight of the CEO under the law, Valley legislators believe the responsibility to ask for a deeper investigation as to whether ethical standards were crossed rests upon the Academic Distress Commission.

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