"I just didn't know how else to do it," former Ohio state school Superintendent Stan Heffner told investigators looking into the scandal that forced him to resign earlier this summer.
Heffner referred to his use of an aide, paid by taxpayers, to perform purely personal tasks for him.
While serving as interim school superintendent in spring 2011, Heffner was offered a job with a national testing service in Texas. He planned to accept, changing his mind only after he was hired as Ohio's permanent head of public schools.
While he was considering the Texas job, he testified before a legislative committee on a bill that might have benefitted the firm for which he planned to go to work. That was an outrageous conflict of interest.
More abuse of taxpayers' trust occurred in the process of Heffner being recruited for the Texas job and after he accepted it. He used an aide in the state Department of Education to coordinate trips involving his hunt for a private-sector job. He also used her to help arrange his schedule so he could look for a house in Texas.
State investigators got Heffner to admit freely to misuse of a state employee and state equipment. "I wasn't thrilled about it," he admitted before adding he didn't "know how else to do it."
How about doing it the way nearly every taxpayer in Ohio would have in a similar situation?
The overwhelming majority of people looking for new jobs do so on their own time, with their own resources. Those in positions of authority don't ask assistants to help for a simple reason: That would be wrong. It would amount to stealing from one's current employer.
Heffner resigned after investigators concluded he misused tax-funded state resources and was involved in a conflict of interest through his testimony to lawmakers.
His behavior alone was outrageous. More disturbing was his apparent inability to see at the time that what he was doing was wrong.
It should not have been surprising, we suppose, given the number of other scandals involving government employees and officials that have been in the news during recent months. They seem upset only once they've been caught defrauding taxpayers.
Perhaps more of them ought to be punished severely for their misbehavior. Heffner would be a good start. He should be required to reimburse the state for every dime of public funds he misspent.