Johnstown Independent

State auditor's review

Johnstown's Heath illegally hired wife's business in previous job

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Johnstown High School principal Michael Heath and his wife have been ordered to repay more than $50,000 because he allegedly entered into an illegal contract with her business while employed by the Mount Gilead school district.

A state audit of the Tomorrow Center, a nonprofit public charter school sponsored by the Mount Gilead school district, revealed that Heath, who served as the school's principal for four years through July, signed a contract with his wife, Val, to provide occupational- and speech-therapy services to the school from Dec. 30, 2011, to June 7, 2013, in violation of state law.

"This is a blatant disregard for the law," state Auditor Dave Yost said in a news release. "The only benefit you or your family should get from your public service is a paycheck and a sense of honor."

Heath, 47, was hired as principal of Johnstown High School in August, at a salary of $75,000 plus benefits.

He did not return The Dispatch's calls for comment.

Johnstown-Monroe Board of Education President Ruth Ann Booher said she was unaware of the auditor's findings and declined to comment.

According to the audit, the Tomorrow Center's board authorized bidding for speech-therapy services in May 2011. Heath hired Brickner's Inc. on Feb. 27, 2012. The president of Brickner's is Heath's wife, Val, and the contract was signed by both husband, on behalf of the school, and wife, on behalf of the company.

The audit further revealed that the school's first payment to Brickner's occurred in January 2012, one month before the board awarded the contract, and that no documentation shows that a competitive-bidding process had occurred.

A total of $53,239 was paid by the Tomorrow Center to Brickner's Inc. over 18 months.

The violation was discovered by the Mount Gilead district treasurer in spring 2013, according to a news release from Mount Gilead Superintendent Jeff Thompson.

Thompson wrote that he would not comment further because the investigation is ongoing.

The Tomorrow Center opened in Edison in 2002 to students in kindergarten through 12th grade from Morrow, Marion, Richland, Crawford, Delaware and Franklin counties. It offers special education and regular education provided by Central Ohio Mental Health, Recovery and Prevention Resources, including substance-abuse, anger-management, suspension-alternative and credit-recovery programs.

The state auditor's office referred the case to the Ohio Ethics Commission.

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