First, we had the unconstitutional appointment of Mark Kvamme to the Ohio Department of Development that had to be undone. Then we had the appointment of Scott Nally had to be redone because at the time Kasich initially appointed him, Nally, too, was constitutionally ineligible to serve (even though he had already started serving as the Director of the Ohio EPA while still being constitutionally ineligible.)
But that was just the State’s constitution. No big deal right?
In February, former Democratic State Representative George Distel announced his retirement as Director of the independent Ohio Turnpike Commission, a position Governor Ted Strickland urged the Commission to appoint Distel to back in 2008. The commission is split evenly between a number of Democratic and Republican members as well as several Cabinet officials who sit in an ex officio capacity.
David Regula, the son of retired Congressman Ralph Regula (R), was a member of the Ohio Turnpike Commission at the time. He started telling his other Commissioners that Governor Kasich wants him to be appointed to the job of Executive Director. So last week, they appointed him (note the resolution is no longer available on the Commission’s website.)
Only one problem: it’s against Ohio’s ethics laws to lobby your fellow commissioners for a job within your agency while you sit on the board. Ohio law requires you to resign your position first and then lobby your former colleagues from the outside. Regula didn’t do that. Therefore, his appointment as Executive Director was illegal. Regula has since resigned his position as both Executive Director and now as a member of the Turnpike Commission, which now totally swears it’ll run a clean selection process, even if they are still considering Regula.
Regula, a Republican, had told his fellow board members that he had secured the endorsement of GOP Gov. John Kasich to replace retired executive director George Distel, which made Regula’s selection a cinch even before a formal job search was conducted, said commission chairman Joseph A. Balog.
Balog said Regula did discuss the job with his commission colleagues before they voted.
"Previous to you hiring somebody that person has to agree to take the job," Balog said.
Balog said the commission decided to move quickly on Regula after he informed his colleagues that he was backed by Kasich.
Kasich communications director Scott Milburn confirmed that Kasich’s office encouraged Regula to seek the job. But Milburn said the administration did not pressure anyone to hire Regula.
"Mr. Regula reached out to us several months ago expressing interest in the job and support for the governor’s agenda for the turnpike," Milburn said. "We welcomed that support and said we’d like to see him in the position, but we made clear that this was the commission’s decision and, because of that, we stayed out of it."
You cannot simultaneously tell an agency who you want them to pick for an appointment while at the same time say you’re “staying out of it.” That’s inherently a contradiction. You told the commission you wanted Regula, a guy who had already illegally lobbied his fellow commissioners for the job while still on the commission. At a minimum, the Kasich Administration is guilty of supporting an appointee who clearly violated Ohio’s ethics laws. The question remains: since the Plain Dealer indicates that the Commission is still considering re-appointing Regula as the Executive Director, does the Administration still support Regula despite his illegal lobbying for the job?
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