STRS Flashback -- 2 Years Ago.....Was Hazel hiding under a rock?
A former member of the state teachers pension board apologized to a judge yesterday for twice accepting freebies from companies the board hired.
"I would like you to rethink that it was only on two occasions that you let the teachers you represented down," Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Carrie Glaeden told Hazel Sidaway. "I think it was more than two occasions."
A jury convicted Sidaway last month of two misdemeanor ethics violations of accepting four free tickets to a Cleveland Indians game in 2001 and two free tickets to a Broadway production of Hairspray in 2003.
"I?m having a hard time understanding why ... you thought it appropriate to accept that," Glaeden told Sidaway yesterday when she sentenced her.
A year before Sidaway accepted Cleveland Indians tickets in 2001 she had accepted other baseball tickets, Glaeden said. She also accepted a free meal for her grandchildren, the judge said. The allegations came out during the trial; she was not charged in connection with them.
Glaeden sentenced Sidaway, a retired Canton elementaryschool teacher, to two years on probation and ordered her to pay $670 in fines and $5,382 for the cost of the investigation. She also required her to serve 200 hours of community service split between the Canton school district and a retirement home or senior center.
"I tried for 17 years to represent the teachers of Ohio with dignity and dedication," Sidaway said. "I accepted something of value that I should not have taken."
The free tickets Sidaway received were from investment consultants who had contracts with the State Teachers Retirement System.
The jury acquitted Sidaway of four other ethics violations for accepting free meals at Columbus restaurants from companies the pension board hired.
The companies included the cost of the meals for board members in their bill to the board, H. Ritchey Hollenbaugh told jurors.
If that was the case, the judge said, then the cost was coming out of the pensions of teachers and retired teachers across the state.
Hollenbaugh said his client wasn?t aware of the ethics law when she accepted the tickets.
"At the time there were no red flags raised. There should have been, but there weren?t," he said.
But Glaeden questioned that.
"With all due respect, anyone who works for state government has to be hiding under a rock if they had not heard of an ethics law."