Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dan Good suspended the district’s director of technology on Tuesday after The Dispatch asked whether she broke district rules by dating a state investigator who was examining district data-rigging.
The district assigned Michele VanDyke to home with pay “pending an investigation of an allegation of a potential conflict of interest,” according to a document that VanDyke signed on Tuesday.
“It allows us unfettered access to her electronic files,” and doesn’t mean she has broken any rules, Good said.
VanDyke is to remain off district property, but be available by telephone during business hours.
The Dispatch reported on Wednesday that an investigator with the state auditor’s office, Jim Longerbone, began dating VanDyke while he was assigned to the investigation into district data-rigging. That case nabbed its first conviction Thursday when Steve Tankovich, who worked at the Kingswood Data Center with VanDyke and at one time was her boss, pleaded no contest to felony attempted records tampering.
VanDyke has at various times led the district’s data-processing department on an interim basis, and was Tankovich’s boss at the time he resigned last year. She currently leads the district's computer operations, and was paid just under $105,000 last school year.
VanDyke said that she met Longerbone in the late fall of 2012 at a gathering before an Ohio State University sporting event. She knew he worked for the state auditor, but didn’t know he was investigating her department.
Months before they began dating, in August 2012, Longerbone had been to the Kingswood Center to interview data analysts who reported to VanDyke. But district officials said she was not there that day.
VanDyke said she didn’t learn of his connection to the data-rigging case until Februrary 2013, when the two mutually agreed to stop seeing each other because of the potential conflicts of interest.
Longerbone didn’t tell his supervisor at the Auditor of State’s office about the relationship until sometime in the early spring, and he was immediately reassigned off the data-rigging case and instructed to end the relationship with VanDyke. But Longerbone decided to quit instead, and resigned in August 2013. He now works as an investigator for the Franklin County prosecutor’s office.
A spokeswoman for the state auditor’s office has said officials there don’t believe the relationship compromised their investigation.
By Bill Bush - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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