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Yost Pursues Order Blocking ECOT From Spending Tax Dollars On ‘Political’ Advertising
Columbus – Auditor of State Dave Yost today requested the assistance of the Attorney General’s office in seeking a legal order prohibiting the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) from using tax dollars to pay for advertising aimed at swaying the legislature and Ohio Department of Education.
Yost sent a letter to ECOT Friday (June 23) ordering it to cease and desist from using tax dollars in an attempt “to engender public sentiment in opposition to the recent actions of the Ohio Department of Education, and to encourage legislative action in response to those actions.”
“We haven’t heard a word from ECOT – not even that they’ve received the letter,” Yost said. “If ECOT is permitted to use public dollars for what is tantamount to politicking, what’s to stop another governmental entity from doing the same thing to run a campaign against a change in state law? This issue is bigger than ECOT, but their actions raised the specter of this problem.”
ECOT has been ordered to repay the state more than $60 million for undocumented student attendance. It has aired advertisements about the repayment order, which continued through Wednesday in at least the Columbus media market. A spokesman for ECOT stated the online school was using public money received by the school to pay for the advertisements. Auditor Yost said such uses “cannot be justified as advancing a proper public purpose and are impermissible.”
Yost is seeking to initiate legal action to obtain a temporary restraining order and ultimately a permanent injunction to prevent ECOT from spending any additional public money on television ads designed to attack government agencies or influence the Ohio General Assembly.
If state auditors confirm admissions from ECOT’s spokesman that tax dollars were used for this type of advertising, findings for recovery could be issued against those responsible at the school and at its sponsor. Given ECOT’s apocalyptic statements that it may be forced to close if forced to repay the $60 million, Auditor Yost is concerned that there will be no resources from which to collect recovery findings.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,900 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.