As we get closer to the budget dropping and as we hear more and more about all of the tricks that the Kasich team is going to use to disguise and hide the massive budget cuts to vital state services like education, I thought it was time to dig a little deeper into the budgeting tricks Kasich’s team used during the transition, specifically how they kept Kasich’s Budget Director Tim Keen working off the books by keeping him on the Auditor’s office payroll.

Just a quick recap: the day after the election Kasich made two appointments. One was for Beth Hansen, his chief of staff. The other was was for Director of the Office of Budget and Management. Like a large number of his other appointments, Kasich looked to Mary Taylor’s Auditor’s office to fill the OBM position. In this case, he chose Tim Keen, a senior policy adviser for Taylor and a former state budget director.

Tim Keen was immediately put to work on Kasich’s transition team, attending meetings with Governor Strickland’s people at OBM.

The problem, as I posted back in January, is that Keen was not paid out of the special, government-provided transition fund set aside for paying people who work on the Governor’s transition team even though we know he was working on the transition effort.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have independently spoken to three different people familiar with the transition who confirmed that Tim did indeed spend a great deal of time on transition-related meetings starting the week after the election (early November) all the way up to the day Kasich was sworn in to office (early January).

At the time we were pretty sure Keen was continuing to receive his full Auditor’s office salary despite the fact that he wasn’t working on Auditor’s office business. At a minimum, this should be against auditor’s office policy – and it may even be illegal. So we requested some documents to help verify what we heard. It took some work, and the help of a good friend of the blog, but we finally received the information.

The first thing we requested was the attendance policy for the Auditor’s office. The document clearly states that “Employees must adhere to an eight (8) hour work day” and, regardless of your position in the Auditor’s office, the hours are not flexible: they must be worked between 7 am and 6 pm whether you answer the phone or manage the office. And any “Violations or abuses of this policy will result in disciplinary action.”

Attendance Policy

The policy does, however, leave a small amount of room for manuvering since Tim still could have used his personal leave or taken time off to work on the transition activities while still not breaking this policy. So we also requested his timesheets for November, December and January to show that he was actually claiming to be working on Auditor’s Office activities.

Tim Keen Time sheets – Nov & Dec 2010

The time sheets clearly show that keen was paid his full, Auditor’s office salary from early November all the way through January when he switched over to OBM.

There is no way he could have attended transition-related meetings and still worked the claimed number of hours during the policy-defined work day. So, at the very least, he broke office policy and should receive “disciplinary action”.

But I’ll take it a step further. The fact that Tim Keen filed timesheets claiming he was working for the Auditor’s office while he was actually working on other business, regardless of whether he was working for the new governor or at the lake fishing, is likely a crime: making false statements at a minumum and possibly even theft of government property. Auditor’s office money is appropriated by the General Assembly for Auditor’s office costs – and it can’t just be redirected for other purposes.

Moreover, since Keen worked directly for Mary Taylor, she should be approving his time sheets. And since she obviously noticed he wasn’t working on Auditor’s office business, there is certainly a case to be made that she is culpable as well, at a minimum for neglecting to notice that Keen was getting paid by her office but more likely for being an active participant in his theft of government resources.

It’s my understanding that it was Beth Hansen’s decision to intentionally keep Tim off the transition payroll in order to make it look like Kasich’s privately-funded transition committee was handling most of the work. Tim was ‘too expensive’, according to Beth, so she kept him on the Auditor’s payroll even though he was working on Office of Budget and Management transition work a good portion of his day.

So Beth Hansen orders Tim Keen – the guy responsible for Kasich’s new budget – to break Auditor’s Office policy (and very likely the law) and Auditor Mary Taylor (not Lt. Gov Taylor) goes along with the scheme and in order to help make John Kasich look like he is spending fewer taxpayer dollars on his transition. And that was before Kasich and Taylor even took office.

Just imagine what they are willing to do now that he’s actually Governor.