Some Ohio school board members have lobbying ties

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Four members of the state's school board have ties to businesses that have a stake in education funding and regulation, the Akron Beacon Journal reported Monday.

Two board members are lobbyists whose clients sometimes compete for education money from the state while another board member's husband is a lobbyist for private schools.

A fourth board member is president of a private college whose school generates income from public education programs administered by the board, according to the newspaper ( ), which worked with the NewsOutlet journalism program based at Youngstown State University.

Board members said they will abstain from votes when there is a potential conflict, police themselves and file required paperwork with the Ohio Ethics Commission.

The ethics commission says Ohio law prohibits state board members from receiving compensation for services they perform on a matter that is before the board they serve.

Members of the state Legislature cannot lobby while in office, but that rule doesn't apply to board members, said Paul Nick, executive director of the Ohio Ethic Commission.

Education board member Bryan Williams, who is from the Akron area, is a lobbyist for non-union building contractors, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Ohio. He also leads the state school board's legislative and budget committee, which testifies before the legislature for the board.

One bill he lobbied for this year would create an apprenticeship program and allow contractors to hire students into apprenticeships and charge the schools for the employment costs of the student. Williams also said he lobbied regarding state money for school construction and regulation of school construction.

"There's no way around it: People are going to gravitate to the position that they have interest in," Williams told the newspaper, adding that other board members are influenced by their organizations or occupations.

School board member C. Todd Jones is both the president and registered lobbyist for the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of Ohio. Among the school's he represents is Ohio Christian University, whose president, Mark A. Smith, is also a state school board member.

Jones has notified the Office of the Legislative Inspector General about what bills he lobbies, and he has filed a statement with the ethics commission disqualifying himself from school board votes that could pose a conflict.

But he has filed that he lobbied the governor's office and legislature this year about post-secondary education.

Jones said his testimony in May thanking the Ohio Senate for restoring funding and programming for the College Credit Plus program didn't amount to lobbying.

"There has to be live legislation and I would have to be taking a position on it. That is lobbying," he told the newspaper.

State school board member Stephanie Dodd of Lima said she has abstained from votes involving issues that her husband lobbied on behalf of the Ohio Association of Independent Schools, a group of private schools.

"In all honesty, if he has an issue that comes before the board," Dodd said, "... I've had to abstain."