Sunday, September 16, 2001

Educator admits to contract steering

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — A former school administrator admitted Friday that she steered nearly $250,000 to her husband's company and agreed to repay $196,000 to the schools.

        Sherry Bird Long, 44, who was director of instructional information services for Columbus public schools, pleaded guilty to unlawful interest in a public contract and unauthorized use of property.

        Franklin County Common Pleas Judge David Cain said she will face as much as 18 months in prison when she is sentenced Nov. 2. She may not work for a public agency for at least seven years.

        An Ohio Ethics Commission investigation found that the money Mrs. Bird Long diverted to her husband for delivering and unpacking computers went into a bank account her family used to buy a sport-utility vehicle and household goods.

        “The commission was very disturbed by the conduct that it found in its investigation,” said its director, David Freel.

        Mrs. Bird Long, of Hilliard, received bids for the computer delivery contract from other companies, but gave the work to EZ Enterprises, which is part-owned by her husband, Edward Long. From November 2000 to March 2001, the company delivered computers for $50 per machine.

        Because the work was done, the state only went after the money that went to EZ, said David Buchman, an assistant county prosecutor. The cost of storing the equipment and truck rental were subtracted from the restitution.

        Mrs. Bird Long went on paid leave from her school job in April after an anonymous letter accusing her of contract steering surfaced. Along with the letter were copies of vouchers showing payments to EZ. She resigned a week later, returning $20,000 paid to EZ for work that had not yet been performed.


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