A lawmaker who drafted a bill requiring gun training for teachers owns a gun business

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Republican lawmaker who drafted the training curriculum schools should take to allow Ohio teachers to carry guns owns a gun training company that apparently ticks all the boxes in the bill.

Ohio schools could begin arming any staff member as early as mid-fall, but the training requirement has raised concerns about the involvement of a specific senator.

Although he denies any wrongdoing, State Sen. Frank Hoagland, a Republican from Mingo Junction, is accused by critics of drafting the bill so his company could benefit financially.

Hoagland helped rewrite House Bill 99, which allows any school board in Ohio to choose to arm school staff members with up to 24 hours of training.

The senator owns a company called START, which stands for Special Tactics and Rescue Training. It is a firearms training and threat management company.

RELATED: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signs bill allowing teachers and staff to carry guns in schools

While the bill was being heard in the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and Public Safety, hundreds of people came out to oppose it. Throughout the hearing process, more than 350 people testified against the bill, while about 19 testified in favor of it.

One of those who testified in support was Dinero Ciardelli, the CEO of START. He did not identify himself as part of the company, but he was not legally required to do so. Hoagland just happens to be the chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and Public Safety, so he saw his colleague testify in support of his bill.

After being asked by News 5 Statehouse reporter Morgan Trau if his company would directly benefit from the bill, as his company appears to be following the bill’s requirements put in place by his bill, the Republican replied that would “absolutely” not be.

His recent financial disclosures showed he brought in up to $100,000 a year for his business.

“There are certainly valid concerns about any lawmaker voting for or advocating a measure that will give the lawmaker or someone close to the lawmaker a financial advantage,” said Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Entin.

Lawmakers are not allowed to vote on a bill when they are employed by or have a relationship with a “legislative officer” or the employer who is actively promoting that legislation, according to the constitutional expert, citing section 102.031 of the Ohio Revised Code.

“Now, if you analyze this language, it’s not entirely clear that this provision actually applies to the situation,” Entin said.

Republicans told News 5 that Hoagland’s role in the bill is clear.

“We proactively asked the Office of the Inspector General for Legislation to review any potential conflicts and there were none,” said Senate GOP spokesman John Fortney. “Unfortunately, the left’s dishonest narrative continues to put politics above student safety.”

The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee, which assesses conflicts of interest in the General Assembly, is prohibited by law from confirming or denying Fortney’s statement.

However, Entin said the law is not that simple.

“It is written in somewhat ambiguous terms,” ​​he said. “It means that if someone wants to raise the issue of a particular legislator voting where the legislator might have a financial interest – well, then there will be room for debate and for some sort of authoritative interpretation. .”

There are safeguards to potential conflicts of interest, including – if there is a specific direct benefit, such as the bill stipulating that schools must complete a particular training program owned by a legislator – that would be a problem, a spokesperson for the committee told News 5.

“Whether it’s legal or not is separate from the quality of the optics,” Entin added.

If Ohio is going to arm teachers, people should want them to have at least a decent education, the attorney added.

“It may be that even if the company benefits from it, it could be a wise policy change,” Entin said, referring to the original bill which did not involve any lawmakers with in fact years of experience with the. fire arms. “But there’s always the question, does it look good?”

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At the moment, Entin said there may not be a legal issue, but he and the ethics committee said there could be a problem down the line.

“Each case is going to hinge on the fact that I don’t know enough about that specific situation to say, but you’re the reporter, you’re chasing this,” he added to Trau. “All I’m saying is there’s a good reason you’re checking this out.”

Ohio law prohibits public officials from using their influence to obtain public contracts, and Hoagland’s company explicitly states on its website that it helps schools deal with active shooter threats, including training to firearms.

“Our priority is to protect school children, so we train teachers on how to respond to an internal or external threat,” the website said on Friday evening.

When News 5 asked the lawmaker about it, he denied it.

“No, my company does not provide training for school companies or schools.”

Along with the direct statement to “protect school children” on the site, the company shows a school gymnasium with children on the “Counter Active Shooter Training” page.

strt.us website

START explaining how they can help educators fight school shootings

When asked about any money the senator might receive from this program, he dismissed the question.

“Young lady,” the senator replied to News 5 reporter Morgan Trau, “I don’t know what money you’re talking about.”

Follow WEWS State House Reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.

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