Appointee was criticized for allegedly pressuring districts to use union labor

THURSDAY, JANUARY 13, 2011  02:53 AM



Richard Murray, 61, a former union official, denied any wrongdoing.


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ov. John Kasich’s to-do list now includes finding a leader for Ohio’s public schools construction program.

Richard Murray resigned as executive director of the Ohio School Facilities Commission effective Sunday, ending his stormy 16-month tenure.

The resignation of Murray, a Democrat appointee who came under fire for allegedly pressuring school districts to use union labor, was not a surprise, with Republicans taking control of the Statehouse.

Kasich budget director Tim Keen, a new member of the school facilities commission, said Murray’s departure was by “mutual agreement.” Murray couldn’t be reached for comment.

A report released by the inspector general’s office in August accused Murray of abusing his position to help labor unions land school-construction contracts through project-labor agreements, which mandate the use of union labor in exchange for promises that work won’t be delayed by strikes.

Murray, 61, a former union official, denied wrongdoing, and former Gov. Ted Strickland stood by him amid calls for his ouster from some Republicans and construction contractors.

No interim commission director has been named, although Murray authorized chief financial officer Eric Bode to sign contracts and other paperwork before he left, said commission spokesman Rick Savors.

The school facilities commission now consists of two Kasich appointees – Department of Administrative Services Director Robert Blair and Keen – and Superintendent of Public Instruction Deborah Delisle.

Keen said the commission will develop a process to search for a new executive director and review applicants who may have submitted their resumes prior to the new governor’s inauguration.

The budget director said the commission will review all of its policies, including project-labor agreements, which enjoy union support but are opposed by non-union contractors and other critics as driving up construction costs.

The commission, which includes four nonvoting members from the Ohio House and Senate, plans a Jan. 27 organizational meeting. The General Assembly has not yet appointed lawmakers to the commission.

Through funding partnerships with local districts, Ohio has spent $8.5 billion to build 789 schools since 1997