Ohio charter schools are very low-performing. They have also had numerous scandals.

And then there is the story of the Richard Allen Charter Schools.

The Dayton Daily News conducted an investigation and found that the charters “are still being run by a person who was sued by the state attorney general 18 months ago for her role in misspending $2.2 million in school money.”

The school leased a Maserati, two Mercedes, and a Jaguar for its leaders. Nothing but the best with public money! I mean, really, would you expect them to drive a Ford or a Toyota or a Chevy?

The investigation “also found that the schools are operating in buildings that have a bankruptcy case hanging over them, and Richard Allen has had no state financial audits released for the past three school years.”

Can you believe this?

Superintendent Michelle Thomas faces pending legal action, as does the Institute of Management and Resources (IMR), which ran the school for years and listed a leased Maserati and Jaguar in its bankruptcy filing.

Asked last week about Thomas’ role running Richard Allen schools, a state attorney general’s spokesman claimed, “The schools are no longer under Ms. Thomas’ control.”

But both the schools’ website and Ohio Department of Education documents confirm that she is the superintendent, and it was Thomas who responded to questions about the schools after a reporter visited the Talbott Tower office for the schools’ management company.

Asked about the contradiction, attorney general’s spokesman Dominic Binkley said he would have to recheck information provided by the AG’s education division that Thomas was no longer running the schools.

Ohio Senate Education Committee Chair Peggy Lehner, who has led charter school reform efforts in recent years, said state officials will investigate.

“I find this information extremely troubling, and I, along with a number of other entities within the state, will continue to look into this,” Lehner said.

Thomas declined an interview request, sending short emails instead.

“Richard Allen Schools has nothing to do with IMR,” Thomas wrote, adding, “The schools are working hard to respect its leases and to secure the property outside of the bankruptcy. The audits are proceeding and it is my understanding that they should be released soon.”

Until summer 2017, the three Richard Allen schools in Dayton and one in Hamilton were run by The Institute of Management and Resources, a company started by Thomas and her mother, Richard Allen Schools founder Jeanette Harris.

Earlier this decade, the state auditor’s office ruled that IMR misspent $2.2 million in public money running Richard Allen. The company denied wrongdoing and appealed in court, but lost in 2015.

Lingering issues

IMR filed for bankruptcy protection in March 2018. The Daily News pored through hundreds of pages of court records, state audits and school records, finding several lingering issues:

** The state attorney general’s office sued IMR, Harris, Thomas and others in late 2017, seeking to turn those $2.2 million in audit findings into collectible court judgments. The case was stayed when IMR filed for bankruptcy protection months later.

“(In addition to IMR), we also sued Jeannette Harris, her daughter Michelle Thomas, and the schools’ former treasurer (Felix O’Aku),” Binkley said. “We seek to hold those individuals strictly liable for the improper payments that resulted in the findings for recovery…

** IMR’s March 2018 bankruptcy filing says that at the time, the company was leasing four cars that were being paid for by IMR officials — a 2015 Maserati Ghibli for which Thomas is listed as co-lessee, a 2016 Mercedes C300 with deputy superintendent Aleta Benson listed as “guarantor,” and both a 2016 Jaguar XJL and a 2016 Mercedes GL 450 SUV with Harris listed as “guarantor.”.”

Ohio spends a billion dollars annually on its failing charter sector, which is now lobbying for an increase of 22% in state aid.