I-Team: School still paying superintendent's family

CINCINNATI - A new state audit shows one of the largest charter schools in the Tri-State continues to pay its superintendent, her family, and her husband's company hundreds of thousand of tax dollars per year.

The I-Team first revealed how VLT Academy always picks the highest bidder for one of its largest contracts. The owner of the company was a school employee and the superintendent's husband.

According to a new audit released Tuesday by the Ohio Auditor of State, CEED Janitorial Services was paid $348,900 last year to clean VLT Academy. CEED is owned by the superintendent's husband, Clyde Lee, who was also on the school's payroll as a project manager making a $65,000 annual salary.

This is the third audit from the state taking issue with the way VLT Academy has handled the janitorial contract. A previous audit cited the school for selecting Lee's company without seeking competitive bids. VLT sought bids the next year, but once again selected the company owned by the superintendent's husband even though he had submitted the highest bid by far.

The latest audit shows CEED was selected again despite two competing bids that would have saved the school as much as $100,000 a year.

In VLT's official response to auditors, the school said, "Mr. Lee will no longer be employed by the Academy."

But the response goes on to explain how the superintendent's husband may be able to keep his job and the money that comes with it.

"The Academy is revising its job description for the janitorial contract to include the responsibilities of Project Manager. Bids will be solicited and awarded for Janitorial Services/Project Manager in accordance with VLT Guidelines. CEED has an opportunity, like other vendors, to bid on the Janitorial Service/Project Manager contract," VLT Academy reported to the state.

The school board has always selected Lee's company no matter how high the price.

In Ohio, community schools like VLT Academy are funded entirely by tax dollars.

The superintendent's daughter is also employed by the school. The I-Team first uncovered contracts showing the superintendent had signed 10 of her daughter's 13 employment contracts.

The state audit showed the annual salary of Echole Harris was $92,049 for multiple job titles. VLT's response came with an admission that Harris had reported directly to her mother.

The school told auditors, "Echole Harris will no longer be employed as an administrator under the supervision of the Superintendent...the Assistant CFO/EMIS/SOES Coordinator will report to the Treasurer."

VLT Academy offered no further comment on the matter when contacted by the I-Team.

The Ohio auditor has referred his findings to the Ohio Ethics Commission which would neither confirm nor deny it is investigating.

Read the latest audit below or at http://goo.gl/s43Yw.

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