Nordonia Hills — A hearing on a complaint against Superintendent Joe Clark alleging violations of election law is scheduled before the Ohio Elections Commission in Columbus tomorrow at 10 a.m.
According to Commission Staff Attorney Philip C. Richter, the hearing is regarding allegations that Clark made “solicitations from public employees” after voters rejected a 3-mill operating levy in November.
Richter told the News Leader this afternoon that the commission could levy a fine of between $50 and $1,000 on Clark, if it rules he was in violation.
“I believe what we have will allow the commission to make a decision tomorrow,” Richter added.
The complaint was filed Dec. 5 by Citizens for Strong Nordonia Hills’ Schools, said John Brachna, chairman of the political action committee that formed last year to oppose the levy.
Clark has admitted he was wrong in sending a Nov. 9 email to district employees soliciting donations for a political action committee that traditionally supports school issues.
In his Nov. 14 follow up, also emailed to district employees, Clark wrote, “I made a mistake.”
“I learned at the conference I attended the past few days that I am not supposed to do that in my position as superintendent,” he wrote. “I offer my deepest apologies for this mistake and ask you kindly to disregard my request. My goal always is to do the right things, and to do things right, and I slipped up with this one. Again, please accept my apologies.”
“It was nice that he sent the second email apologizing, but it doesn’t eliminate the seriousness of the original offense,” Brachna said Jan. 23. “As the leader of our district … Dr. Clark should be held to a higher standard.”
In the Nov. 9 email, Clark wrote that the attempt to pass Issue 65, the 3-mill levy, “drained the funds of the Friends of Nordonia Schools,” the PAC that campaigned for the levy. He said additional funding may therefore be needed for another campaign “a possibly as soon as November 2013.”
Clark said Wednesday he will be at tomorrow’s hearing in Columbus.
“Everyone knows what happened. I sent the email, then apologized for it,” said Clark, who declined further comment.
Brachna said Wednesday that the PAC believes that the superintendent should limit his activities to education and not be involved in “politics.”
He added that he believes that Clark’s initial email was “causing a false alarm” about district finances, noting that the district’s five-year forecast, which the Board of Education approved in October, projects that the district will not begin to run a deficit without additional revenue until 2015.
Editor’s note: Check back here for updates. See the Jan. 30 edition for the full story.