Appeals court rules education board met lawfully before ECOT vote

From Gongwer

The State Board of Education didn't commit a technical violation when it voted to claw back $60 million from The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, an appeals court has ruled.

The Franklin County Court of Appeals upheld the July decision of a lower court that the board didn't break open meetings laws the day it accepted a hearing officer's finding that ECOT was overpaid for the number of full-time students it served in the 2015-16 school year.

The shuttered e-school argued board members met illegally in June to come to a decision on the repayment prior to a vote.

Its attorney said at the time a violation was clear because members voted without discussion. He also criticized the meeting schedule and accused board president Tess Elshoff of polling members on their opinions prior to a vote.

Similarly, the board voted without discussion earlier this month to accept a hearing officer's findings from ECOT's 2016-17 school year attendance audit. Another $19 million was deemed overpaid as a result of that review.

The three-judge appeals court found that because the board's 2017 proceedings were quasi-judicial in nature, the Open Meetings Act cannot be violated.

"By issuing a final determination after providing notice, a hearing, and the opportunity to provide evidence, BOE was acting in a quasi-judicial capacity," the court said in its decision.

ECOT is currently awaiting an Ohio Supreme Court ruling in a separate case in which it contended the attendance audit was incorrectly completed, therefore no repayments should be made.