FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE For Information: Matt Dole (740) 236-0613
FORMER PROSECUTOR AND JUDGE RETAINED TO HOLD STATE REP. TERESA FEDOR ACCOUNTABLE FOR POTENTIAL ILLEGAL ACTIVITY
Fedor may have used stolen property to falsely accuse Ohio Public Charter School of wrongdoing
COLUMBUS, OH [August 26, 2015] – The Ohio eSchool Friends and Families Coalition today retained former Prosecutor and Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Greg Peterson to investigate how State Representative Teresa Fedor came into possession of potentially stolen documents, made false claims against the Ohio Virtual Academy and to hold her to account for her actions.
Fedor made her claims based on false assumptions from documents that were not public records and which were mysteriously downloaded without authorization from school computers. There are questions, therefore, not only about why a state representative would make claims without having all the facts, there are questions about how she came into possession of the potentially stolen documents in the first place.
Fedor’s claims were investigated by both the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and through an internal investigation by Ohio Virtual Academy. Both investigations found that the allegations were false.
Attorney Greg Peterson says its his intention to review the process by which Representative Fedor came into possession of confidential documents and why she attempted to use those documents as a basis for false statements.
“Recently, Representative Fedor said a state official’s duty is ‘to follow the law, period’,” Peterson said. “We now intend to hold her to that high standard in getting to the bottom of how she came into possession of potentially stolen records and demanding accountability for her defamatory comments.”
Peterson outlined a series of questions to be answered before deciding upon a course of action.
“Representative Fedor owes her constituents and all Ohioans answers on where she got the documents, whether she reviewed state ethics laws that prohibit the release of confidential information by state officials, what steps she took to verify the claims and what she plans to do to remedy the false claims she’s made,” Peterson said. “Once we have some answers, we’ll decide whether the path forward involves a referral of criminal charges or civil action.”
Potential criminal charges stem from theft, receiving stolen property, tampering with records or unauthorized use of property; or, even, not reporting that a crime occurred.
Peterson also says he intends to investigate whether any public funds, staff time or resources were used in the receipt, distribution or investigation of the potentially stolen documents.
The investigation could eventually be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency or reported to the prosecutor. She could also be sued civilly for defamation. Finally, as a public official, she could be reported to the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee for actions that don’t “reflect credit upon her respective chamber of the General Assembly.”
“As a Prosecutor, I was involved with hundreds of investigations,” Peterson said. “I’m going to be thorough because the public deserves to learn the truth.”
For more information and to follow the investigation, visit OhioeSchoolCoalition.org.
Representative Teresa Fedor
False Statements Investigation FAQ
How did the Ohio Department of Education come to investigate Ohio Virtual Academy?
Ohio Department of Education does not undertake independent investigations. The only reason they would open an investigation is in response to Representative Fedor’s claims.
How do we know Representative Fedor’s claims are false?
Every claim made by Rep. Fedor was thoroughly investigated by both the Ohio Department of Education independently and the school internally. After intensive independent investigation, which included personal interviews and record reviews, the Department of Education could not substantiate any of the claims being made by Rep. Fedor and concluded the information in her possession did not support her statements. Further, the school, which cooperated with the Department of Education investigation at all times, determined that its employees had followed all applicable state laws, mandates, and procedures.
Why has there been a delay in the school’s response?
The review of claims being made by Rep. Fedor was lengthy. While fully cooperating with the Department of Education investigation the school also conducted its own internal review to insure no wrongdoing had happened. The school’s first priorities were to insure students were being treated fairly and that its entire staff was conducting themselves appropriately. Now that this has been confirmed, we believe it is important to address the wrongful and damaging conduct of Rep. Fedor.
Why isn’t the lawyer looking into the actions of Representative Bill Hayes?
All available information shows that Rep. Hayes simply passed the information along to the Auditor of State, without making comment in the press or making false accusations against this public charter school.
Is this just a political attack against Representative Fedor?
The Ohio eSchool Friends and Families Coalition is a non-partisan organization made up of students, parents, teachers and friends of public charter schools in Ohio. This isn’t about politics. It’s about hold Representative Fedor accountable under the same laws she cited when making false accusations against Ohio Virtual Academy.
Doesn’t Rep. Fedor have a 1st Amendment right to speak out against the school?
The 1st Amendment does not protect defamation, which is a false statement that injuries another party’s reputation. Therefore, Rep. Fedor’s false statements are not protected by the 1st Amendment.
Isn’t the person who gave Rep. Fedor the stolen documents a whistleblower and wouldn’t that mean they are protected by a whistleblower law?
The person who gave Rep. Fedor the stolen documents is not a whistleblower and is not protected by any law. Under Ohio’s Whistleblower Statute, O.R.C. Section 4113.52, a whistleblower is someone who reasonably believes their employer is taking part in a criminal act, who reports such activity first to their employer and then to a, “prosecuting authority of the county or municipal corporation where the violation occurred, with a peace officer, with the inspector general if the violation is within the inspector general's jurisdiction, or with any other appropriate public official or agency that has regulatory authority over the employer and the industry, trade, or business in which the employer is engaged.” The party that contacted Rep. Fedor and gave her potentially stolen documents never informed the school of any suspected wrongdoing and did not take any information to the proper authorities, namely a prosecutor or law enforcement agency. Therefore they are not a whistleblower under Ohio law. Further, nothing in Ohio’s Whistleblower Statute allows a potential whistleblower to steal documents or other information in order substantiate their claims. This is a crime.
What exactly is being requested of Representative Fedor?
We would like Rep. Teresa Fedor to publicly identify information connected to her statements, including:
- The name and position of the employee(s) who gave her the documents/information.
- Any other documents or information that she was given and did not release.
- What steps she took to verify the claims, documents, information, and the party who gave it to her before she went public and defamed the school.
- What steps she took to contact the school and remedy the problem she thought existed before she held a press conference where she slandered the school.
- What, if anything, she did to identify and report the wrongful theft of confidential information from the school.
- What she is doing to cooperate with any investigation into the theft of the documents she now has.
- What she plans on doing to remedy the false claims she has made.
- Whether she used any public or campaign funds in the process of making these false claims.
- Whether she first reviewed state ethics laws that prohibit the release of confidential information by state officials.
What laws might have been broken if the documents were, indeed, stolen?
Our initial review of the situation has determined that the following laws may have been violated when the documents were taken:
- Violation of O.R.C. Section 2913.42 (Tampering of records)
- Violation of O.R.C. Section 2913.02(A)(1) (Theft)
- Violation of O.R.C. Section 2913.04 (Unauthorized use of property- computer)
What laws might have been broken if Representative Fedor actively participated, coordinated or had knowledge that the documents were, indeed, stolen?
Violation of O.R.C. Section 2921.22(A)(1) for failure to report a crime. (Carries penalties of up to30 days in jail and a $250.00 fine)
Violation of O.R.C. Section 2913.91(A) for receiving stolen property. (Carries penalties of up to180 days in jail and a $1000.00 fine)
Violation of O.R.C. Section 2913.02(A)(1) for theft for knowingly obtain[ing] or exert[ing] control over… the property [of another] without the consent of the owner or person authorized to give consent. (Carries penalties of up to 180 days in jail and a $1000.00 fine)
Violation of O.R.C. Section 2923.03(A)(1)(2) or (3) for complicity in another crime. (Carries the same penalty as the underlying crime)
What are the potential outcomes of the investigation?
She can be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
- She can be reported to the prosecutor in the given jurisdiction in which the wrongful/illegal act took place.
- Her actions and conduct can be reported to the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee for, not, “reflect[ing] credit upon [her] respective chamber of the General Assembly.”
- She could be sued civilly for slander and/or libel (potentially in any jurisdiction in which the story ran or she made the statements).
Where did Rep. Fedor’s false allegations appear?
The following is just a small fraction of the widespread news coverage: