Excellent analysis and questions.
Both have surely violated the public trust. Why the difference in punishment? For one, cash. For another, the law.
I doubt Tamela Lee possessed the personal wealth to drag legal proceedings far enough along with the best lawyer(s) money can buy to negotiate a lesser verdict while William Lager lawyered up to use every legal maneuver possible to avoid responsibility. The law, too, is a factor. Lee’s crime was clear and blatant bribery. Lager has used legalized bribery (e.g. massive political campaign “contributions” over many years) to buy/rent/lease/retain public officials to change laws and regulations beneficial to his inept online charter school. The corporate form is also a helpful shield to insulate in many cases jail time. Laws and verdicts which often maximize fines to corporations (as well as the rich) to a percentage of whatever amount of money was unlawfully acquired invite unethical actions. Stealing $100 knowing that the maximum punishment/fine is $20 simply invites stealing.
The damage Lager has done to children through his phony school and to democracy through corrupting the political system are unconscionable. Fraud charges should be pursued. Significant prison time for Lager and revoking ECOT’s corporate charter can’t repair the damage already done, but they would provide at least some deterrent to prevent future irresponsibility and criminality.