Kasich, Dems going at it over audit of JobsOhio books

Ike Mgbatogu | 8/10/2013, 10:02 a.m.
Partisan cacophonies and scuffles have been raging ever since Kasich launched JobsOhio. The court eventually got involved and sided with ...

COLUMBUS - JobsOhio, the controversial economic development cabal established by Governor John Kasich in 2011 to create jobs will probably end up creating way more fights than jobs, judging by the way things are playing out.

Those partisan cacophonies and scuffles have been raging ever since Kasich launched JobsOhio. The court eventually got involved and sided with Kasich, which allowed the entity to stay. But with a bruising gubernatorial contest looming, the likely Democratic nominee Ed Fitzgerald is really pushing the issue out to the forefront, recently accusing Kasich of corrupt practices. At the same time, State Auditor David Yost is fighting to gain access to JobsOhio books.

Now, with Democrats so far seething at the losing end of the dustup over this, Fitzgerald is taking his case to the Ohio Ethics Commission, asking them to get involved to see whether members of the JobsOhio violated Ohio law.

Fitzgerald's call for the Ohio Ethics Commission to weigh in comes in the wake of a report by the Dayton Daily News stating that some members of the JobsOhio have gainful connections to companies that are receiving assistance from the controversial entity. The newspaper report named the companies linked to these sitting members of JobsOhio, including Bob Evans, Procter and Gamble, Sherwin-Williams and Marathon Oil.

Fitzgerald, who, along with his Democratic colleagues, have maintained that JobsOhio operation is suspiciously lacking accountability and transparency, was all over the newspaper report.

"These revelations are deeply alarming and raise significant questions as to whether state ethics laws may have been broken by the governor or those associated with JobsOhio," said Fitzgerald, in a letter he fired off to the ethics commission.

Democrats have been calling for a process to hold JobsOhio accountable for how they are spending taxpayer dollars and how they are operating.

But Kasich is having none of it, intensely pushing back against any effort to scrutinize JobsOhio, succeeding in June of quickly muscling through Senate Bill 67 to prevent Yost from gaining access to JobsOhio's financial books, especially the part involving how liquor profit is funding the entity. And that was after a similar bill was quickly approved by the Ohio House of Representatives.

Yost sought to delay action on both bills, but expectedly failed in his bid, since Kasich was the one rabidly pushing for the passage of proposal. In the governor's eyes, the $100 million that funds JobsOhio is private money since it comes from the lease of the Wholesale liquor, and therefore should not be subjected to public audit, which would be Yost.

Yost, for his part, have before issued a subpoena to gain access to JobsOhio papers, but that got him absolutely nowhere, which is all because the Republican leadership is doggedly entrenched in its argument, as recently made by Senate President Keith Faber, stating:

"We simply don't share the view that a government official can force a private entity to disclose private financial records, and we don't believe the law supports that type of action, as it could have a devastating impact on Ohio's economic development and job creation efforts."

Apparently, that's their story and they are sticking to it, arguing that JobsOhio will instead be audited by a private entity, not Yost.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus. He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com.