As we reported on Friday, Kasich finally gave up the fight to keep Mark Kvamme on as head of the Department of Development. Kvamme, a venture capitalist from California, is constitutionally forbidden from serving in this position because his is not an Ohio resident. He will be replaced with James Leftwich from the Dayton Development Coalition (DDC).
The announcement of Kvamme’s departure initially seemed like good news. But the more I find out about Leftwich and his time at the DDC, the more this appointment scares the crap out of me.
While Kvamme and Kasich were still dreaming about their JobsOhio plan, trying to figure out how they could give tons of public money to a private development organization with almost no oversight, James Leftwich was living the dream at the Dayton Development Coalition.
Much like Kasich’s JobsOhio, the DDC is a private organization that receives millions in public funding and hands out secret bonuses to its already well-paid employees.
While every single community has been asking employees for concessions, laying off staff, not filling positions and cutting budgets- the Dayton Development Coalition continues to behave like Wall Street bankers- drinking champagne and eating caviar while being handed our tax dollars. They are going to give themselves raises of 5% to 24% on their already overly inflated salaries.
While the DDC refuses to release the bonus amounts received by its employees (obviously!), the Dayton Daily News did report that Leftwich received $257,000 in base salary last year and we know that bonuses for senior staff often hit 24% – which would push Leftwich’s total compensation to nearly $320,000!
The other interesting fact about Leftwich: he was running the show at the DDC in 2009 when the NCR corporation left Dayton and moved to Atlanta.
I bring this up because John Kasich absolutely loves to talk about the NCR move. It was one of his big campaign talking points: Ted Strickland let NCR take 1,300 Ohio jobs to Georgia. Kasich mentioned it again in his State of the State speech. And it’s one of the primary examples Kasich uses when he explains why we need to take all of our development money and our liquor profits and send them to JobsOhio.
It’s very hard to seriously blame NCR’s move on Governor Strickland, who was busy leading the state through the worst economic crisis since the great depression at the time. Leftwich and the DCC, on the other hand, were supposed to be focused on economic development in the Dayton area. If it was anyone’s job to keep NCR from leaving Ohio, it was Leftwich’s. He only had one job. And he was paid twice the Governor’s salary to do it. And he still failed.
The DDC and Leftwich proved a long time ago that they weren’t capable of keeping a company like NCR from leaving the state, and yet Kasich has based his entire development strategy on the same model the DDC uses and hired the guy who was most responsible for the NCR loss to a new job where not losing NCR seems to be the only job requirement.
And here’s the other thing about the DDC: due to their lack of oversight, they has been involved in a number of pay and spending scandals, the biggest one involving the DDC paying hundred of thousands of dollers to the Turner Effect, a company run by Rep. Mike Turner’s wife, based on a no-bid contract. Conflict of interest here should seem obvious:The DDC directly lobbies Congress for federal funds and they have figured out a way to funnel tons of cash to the wife of a congressman.
Rep. Mike Turner, by the way, was named one of the top 20 most corrupt members of congress in part because of this scandal.
Kasich claims we don’t need more oversight of JobsOhio even though groups like the DDC serve as proof that limited oversight regularly results in financial scandals.
Kasich claims we need JobsOhio so we can prevent companies like NCR from leaving the state, and then he hires the Dayton Development Coalition’s James Leftwich completely ignoring the fact that Leftwich and the DDC already proved themselves unable to keep NCR from leaving.
The absurdity of the situation would actually be pretty funny if it wasn’t so disastrously sad.