We talked about this in March:
The Republican state auditor is demanding access to financial documents, Democratic lawmakers are demanding more public scrutiny of the nonprofit JobsOhio, one Republican leader is chastising both of the former, and Gov. John Kasich is calling the whole thing a misunderstanding over a complicated issue.
Such was the status Thursday in a growing controversy over the private office that coordinates the state’s economic development programming, the millions of dollars in public funding it has received and the lack of public information on the nonprofit’s spending and donors.
“Sometimes you read things and it appears one way,” the governor told reporters Thursday. “It’s really just a little disagreement about how we should proceed. The simple fact of the matter is I favor all public money being able to be audited by our state auditor, plain and simple. … But you don’t want to go in and audit the private books of private industry by the auditor. That’s beyond his authority.”
The brouhaha focuses on JobsOhio, the nonprofit created by Kasich and lawmakers two years ago to reach out to existing companies and firms thinking about expanding into Ohio, negotiating economic incentive packages and helping to commercialize research and technologies developed at the state’s universities.
Most of JobsOhio’s dealings are conducted outside of the public spotlight, a setup supporters say is needed during business negotiations.But documents also indicated the nonprofit has received more than $5 million in public funding, and a number of employees received six-figure salaries.
JobsOhio is back in the news:
Kasich defended his administration’s privatized economic-development agency in the wake of a complaint filed last week with the Ohio Ethics Commission by Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, the likely Democratic nominee for governor in 2014. FitzGerald requested a “thorough ethics investigation” by the commission of possible conflicts of interest by JobsOhio board members.
But the commission could not take the case because it has no authority over JobsOhio. Kasich signed a bill in June exempting the nonprofit agency from scrutiny by the state auditor and from the purview of the ethics commission, subjecting it instead to annual audits by a private firm it hires and self-policing on ethics questions by JobsOhio board members.
Here’s a shocker:
Subsidiaries of a company that’s helped sustain Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s political career and contribute to his personal bank account have received tax breaks worth more than $619,000 brokered by the new job creation board he appoints.
Longstanding and extensive financial ties between Kasich and Worthington Industries, a Fortune 500 steel processor in central Ohio, are raising new ethics questions in the era of JobsOhio, a semi-private panel of business leaders appointed by the governor and largely shielded from Ohio ethics and public records laws. Kasich, a Republican, joined the Worthington Industries board in 2001, as he left Congress. The company’s founder and late chairman, the powerful John H. McConnell, was an architect of Kasich’s political rise from state legislator to congressman to governor — joining family members and employees in giving hundreds of thousands to his campaigns and political committees over the years.
Kasich served a decade on the board while working in the private sector and was paid more than $611,000 as a board member between 2007 and 2011, the company’s federal business filings show.
Kasich quit the board a day after winning the 2010 gubernatorial election but continued to receive deferred payouts for three years, according to his financial disclosure forms.
They’re not elected, they’re not subject to public records laws, they’re not subject to any outside audit or ethics review yet they’re directing public policy in Ohio and spending millions of public dollars. Aren’t public-private partnerships great? The public has absolutely no information or power other than that which the board members deign to give us. There’s no “public” role in this at all.
I love the assumption behind these privatization schemes-that private entities spending public money are much more ethical and honorable than public employees so require no oversight at all other than “self-policing on ethics questions by JobsOhio board members.” The people who represent wealthy business interests and sit on this board aren’t just smarter than public employees or the rest of us dopes in the cheap seats, they’re better people. Has that been your experience in the private sector? It certainly hasn’t been mine, on either “smarter” and “better.” It’s self-perpetuating, too, because the more privatized government boards hand out tax breaks and public payments to private entities, the less money there is to fund public entities and public government, leading to still more demands for privatization from the same cast of characters. Nice racket they got going.