November 20, 2001 at 7:25 PM EST - Updated July 12 at 3:10 AM
CLEVELAND (AP) - The testing of applicants for computer programming positions in the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has been suspended following reports of cheating.
Department officials confiscated 21 computers and voided the exams given last week to 110 job applicants.
Director Tom Hayes said a person outside of the agency alleged that all or part of the answers to the essay tests had been leaked.
The tests were given on Wednesday and Friday. Hayes said on Monday that he learned of the allegation on Friday and immediately halted further testing.
"This may end up being nothing, but we felt it was better to overreact ... so that there was never any question of impropriety," Hayes told The Plain Dealer for a story on Tuesday.
The allegation is being investigated by Chief Inspector Kenneth Marshall.
If Marshall confirms that cheating occurred, Hayes said, "we will discipline them to the fullest extent of the law and our code, which is termination."
Although Ohio's budget crisis has curtailed the hiring of nonessential employees and is expected to result in hundreds of layoffs, Job and Family Services is being permitted to hire 150 programmers and analysts as a cost-saving measure.
Hayes has been trying to wean the department of its over-reliance on high-priced contractors. He said the state saves $100,000 for every contractor it replaces with a state worker.
(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)