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State May Collect Funding Error From School Officer

(CN) - The treasurer of a community school that received $1.4 million in excessive state funding can be held liable over the public money as a public official, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled.

After the International Preparatory School shut down in 2005, an audit revealed that it used inflated enrollment figures to obtain $1.4 million in extra funding from the Department of Education.

The state successfully sued treasurer Hasina Shabazz for misuse of public funds, but an appeals court overturned the decision, ruling that Shabazz was not a public official.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer disagreed with the lower court's finding, writing that Shabazz was a public official who could be personally liable for the extra funding.

"Public officials are personally liable for public funds," the ruling states. "Any liability that arises therefrom is not a corporate debt - it is the official's own debt."

Pfeifer added, however, that the trial court must determine whether Shabazz was in charge of actually receiving, or supervising the receipt of, public money.

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