State seeks money from defunct Springfield charter school

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office is seeking nearly a quarter-million dollars as part of a civil complaint against the fiscal officer and sponsor of a Springfield charter school that closed in early 2008.

The complaint, filed in Clark County Common Pleas Court, argued fiscal officer Franklin Carter, of Elyria, and Urban Management Development LLC., based in Columbus, failed their financial duties to the charter school, Urban Youth Academy.

The state is seeking more than $220,000, plus costs, interests and attorney fees from the defendants, and as well any other compensation Carter and UMD during the time they were in breach of financial duties.

When a charter school closes, its assets are transferred to state retirement systems, any unpaid employees and unpaid creditors. After that, any remaining money is returned to traditional school districts whose students the charter school served, in this case Springfield City Schools.

The complaint shows the charter received more than $2.2 million in operating funds overall. About 98 percent of the charter’s operating funds were transferred from the Springfield City School District in the final year the charter operated. Urban Youth Academy operated from 2004 to 2008, according to the lawsuit.

The statute of limitations to collect on a finding for recovery to a local government is six years, said Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Filing a lawsuit extends the period of time the funds can be collected.

“This is a common practice we do in order to secure findings for recovery and try and recoup those funds to the public entity it should be returned to,” Tierney said.

Franklin Carter, along with other officials with Urban Management, could not be reached for comment. Carter’s license expired in 2011, and there are no indications he is currently working in a school district in Ohio, according to information from the Ohio Department of Education.

The state’s lawsuit points to a finding from the Ohio Auditor’s Office that sought about $158,000 from Carter due to his involvement in improper payments to UMD during his time as treasurer. None of that has been repaid, and Carter now owes about $194,000 including fees and interest, according to the lawsuit. UMD, the management company, also owes $202,000, according to the lawsuit.

Urban Youth Academy closed abruptly in May 2008 after site visits from the charter’s sponsor provoked concerns over student safety, enrollment and educational programs. An audit after the school closed revealed that poor record keeping and missing records resulted in more than $241,000 in undocumented expenditures.