Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed litigation on Tuesday to recover public funds disbursed by the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), including claims against affiliated companies and officers of the defunct charter school. The suit follows yesterday’s amended court order granting assignment of claims to the State of Ohio.
Defendants in today's lawsuit include:
- William Lager, of Columbus, Founder of ECOT
- Altair Learning Management I, Inc., of Columbus, which served as ECOT's operator and management company
- IQ Innovations, LLC, of Columbus, which provided ECOT with curricular materials and related services
- Rick Teeters, of Daytona Beach, Florida; Superintendent of ECOT
- Michelle Smith, of Bristolville, Treasurer of ECOT
- Christopher Meister, of Worthington, Vice President of Accounting for ECOT
- Ann Barnes, of Grove City, Education Management Information System (EMIS) Director for ECOT
- Regina Lukich, of Upper Arlington, Director of Federal Programs for ECOT
The lawsuit alleges:
- The ECOT officers named are strictly and personally liable for disbursements made by the charter school without authority in Ohio law
- Lager had a fiduciary duty to ECOT and violated that duty when companies in which he had substantial interest (Altair and IQ) did business with ECOT
- ECOT's contracts with IQ Innovations were void and unlawful due to Lager's substantial interest in the company
- Lager violated the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act
The lawsuit seeks to recover from the ECOT officers any funds improperly received by ECOT for students not properly documented in its 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 full time equivalency (FTE) review conducted by the Ohio Department of Education, as well as funds improperly paid to IQ Innovations under contracts alleged to violate Ohio law. The lawsuit also seeks to recover all profits Lager received from ECOT's contracts with Altair and IQ. Additionally, the lawsuit seeks to collect the penal amount of a treasurer's bond issued to Smith.
After ECOT's closure earlier this year, the Ohio Attorney General's Office requested that the court-appointed official overseeing ECOT's dissolution seek a court order assigning any of ECOT's remaining recovery claims to the Attorney General. Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael J. Holbrook assigned the claims on July 26th and issued a clarifying order yesterday, which allowed for today's lawsuit filing. Today's lawsuit is separate from other legal proceedings where ECOT challenged the Ohio Department of Education's actions pursuant to the FTE review.
Attorney General DeWine issued the following statement on today's lawsuit filing:
"My office has been in court for over two years working to hold ECOT accountable. I will continue to be aggressive in seeking to recover public funds from ECOT, its affiliates, and Mr. Lager that they improperly received."