Details about Kasich and Kvamme’s implementation plan for JobsOhio are finally starting to come out and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the problems with JobsOhio’s lack of oversight and transparency are not going to go away.

ProgressOhio has made the news lately discussing the announcement that Kasich would be setting aside a “$24 million pool of Third Frontier funds for distribution to local chambers of commerce and other private, regional economic development agencies.” As ProgressOhio points out, “The announcement came after most of the agencies or their partners endorsed SB5” – leaving a lot of unanswered questions about who is getting funds from JobsOhio and why.

The distribution of funds to local chambers of commerce (or organizations that were largely organized by the local chambers)was announced at a public press conference by Kasich. But there are plenty of decisions being made behind the scenes. Decisions involving how to spend OUR money.  Decisions that could be influenced by – or could benefit – people with close relationships to JobsOhio directors and employees. Decisions we’ll never know about.

I want to address one specific question involving Mark Kvamme – but bear with me while I provide a little background and context first…

During the first week of January, 2011, Kasich announced he would be bringing on California Venture Capitalist Mark Kvamme to head the Department of Development.

Kvamme was supposed to stay here 5 or 6 months to help create his brainchild: JobsOhio, a new private organization that would effectively take over all economic development efforts from Ohio’s Department of Development.

Months after his originally scheduled departure date, Kvamme is still here. He recently took on the role of Chief Investment Officer for JobsOhio and Crain’s Cleveland reported yesterday that he now has an Ohio driver’s license and he recently “bought a farm near Sunbury.”

Like Kvamme, questions about the problems with JobsOhio won’t seem to go away either.

From the beginning, concerns over transparency and oversight for JobsOhio have been raised. And the final version of HB1, the bill authorizing the creation of JobsOhio, confirmed those concerns, all but removing ethics and oversight requirements currently in place at the DOD and other state agencies.

According to the bill, “records created or received by JobsOhio are not public records,” directors and employees of JobsOhio do not need to file ethics or financial disclosure forms like every other state official and employee, and when JobsOhio does hold one its limited number of public meetings, they are allowed to close those meetings to the public if they want to discuss “personal financial statements” or “to consider personnel matters related to an individual employee of the corporation.”

JobsOhio’s funding source has also been called into question.

Kasich’s budget (HB153) allows JobsOhio to take control of Ohio’s liquor profits against which it will sell bonds to raise money to pay to pay the state for a lease on the profits, the leftover capital for operating costs.

The transfer of this state asset (Liquor Profits) to JobsOhio will require the state and JobsOhio to hire experts with this type of experience. But, as Innovation Ohio points out in a recent report Kasich’s budget grants the directors of OBM, Commerce and Development “the authority to hire underwriters, investment bankers and financial advisors without any legislative or government oversight.” That means no competitive bidding and no asking the State Controlling Board for spending approval.

LSC’s analysis says:

The Director of Budget and Management also, without need for any other approval, may retain or contract for the services of specified persons such as financial advisers to effect the transfer agreement.

Let me recap:

  • Kasich and the GOP-controlled legislature have given Mark Kvamme control of billions in state assets (liquor profits) against which to issue bonds to pay for JobsOhio.
  • They have removed all oversight from Kvamme including all ethics and financial disclosure requirements and the requirement to reveal publicly his personal relationships with people doing business with the state.
  • They have given Kasich appointees, not elected officials, the authority to hire financial consultants – including those responsible for underwriting bonds – without any competitive bidding or approval from the State Controlling Board.

What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

So back to Kvamme.

The central Ohio rumor mill has been grinding out news about Mark Kvamme for months. While Kvamme may be buying a farm and moving to our wonderful state, Kvamme’s soon-to-be ex-wife and daughter are still living in the Bay Area. Court records show that Kvamme’s wife filed for divorce on May 19th – and while we don’t know the exact reason, it seems reasonable that his divorce and his change of heart on moving to Ohio might be related to the other big Kvamme rumor: his girlfriend.

The rumor mill tells us that Kvamme’s girlfriend here in Columbus is Megan J. Browning, daughter of Voinovich’s OBM director Greg Browning and Senior Vice President at the investment banking firm George K. Baum & Company.

According to her online bio, Megan Browning specializes in exactly the type of financial advising and underwriting that will be needed to implement the JobsOhio funding plan. She “has served as financial advisor” to the state in the past and worked as “underwriter for the State’s Liquor Profit Bonds” – the same bonds that will need to be paid off by JobsOhio’s lease and the same type of bonds that JobsOhio will be issuing to provide its funding.

Now let me be clear here: I am not saying there is anything illegal, immoral, unethical or even unlikable about the relationship between Kvamme and Browning. Kvamme is free to date anyone he likes, and he and Megan certainly do seem to have a lot in common despite the 16 year age difference.

But if there was something questionable, how would we know?

Did the whole idea to sell off liquor profits comes from Mark Kvamme’s girlfriend? Will she benefit from the payoff of the current liquor bonds? Is she going to get any of the contracts to underwrite the new bonds? If so, will they hire her without any competitive bidding? Has she influenced any other decisions about JobsOhio’s financing? Has she given Mark any large gifts? Has she sent any emails to Mark that might have helped direct business to her company?

Probably not. But we don’t know. And we WON’T know. Because Kvamme and the GOP intentionally created JobsOhio in a way that prevents us from knowing what it does, how it does it, who is influencing it and who might be benefiting and why.

Again, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with Kvamme dating a financial analyst who does work for the state of Ohio.

But the entire system of transparency and oversight was set up to specifically address cases like this. Cases where there could be the appearance of impropriety. And when that system is tossed out in the name of ‘moving at the speed of business’ – how are we supposed to know?

Ronald Reagan liked to use the phrase “Trust, but verify”

Kasich and Kvamme are simply asking us to Trust.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting – I just checked the Delaware Co. Auditor website, and they have nothing listed under the name Kvamme.

  • Anonymous

    Trust? I wouldn’t trust those two if I hooked the polygraph to them myself!  Believe me, I would not turn my back on either of them if I were wearing a full suit of armor.  I would sooner jump in the swimming pool full of sharks wearing a pork chop wet suit than to trust either Kasich or Kvamme.  Would it be too transparent of me to tell you about how I feel about these two worthless buffoons (that’s right, folks, you read it first on Plunderbund, they are worthless buffoons)?

  • Annekarina

    Welcome to the Hotel California   Such a lovely place  Such a lovely face   They livin it up at the Hotel California   What a nice surprise   Bring your alibis……..

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if it is one of those smelly mega-farms?  What kind of West Coast produce do you think will be grown there?

  • Adrienne

    I smell a corruption scandal brewing. The public sector cannot be run like the private sector because it is our tax dollars on the line. If stuff is run like Lehman Brothers, it is a lose-lose especially that the same people still won’t go to jail. 

  • Yep.  I checked all the surrounding counties and couldn’t find him either.

  • Just what I have said a thousand times, When a man who worked with a company who shifted losses to hide them, awarded themselves with high bonuses and salaries  and then imploded, will do the same for Ohio.,

  • Victoria

    This is one of the best articles you guys have ever written.  And we may well know soon because you have given me enough info for a slamming deposition. Of course it will be a battle to get there but what fun.  Thank you so much.  I hope you saw my KasichWatch post that JobsOhio is hiring private counsel on the lawsuit. 
    I know enough about men from my 59 years on earth to know that sex with a woman 16 years younger than him is a valuable item of exchange.

  • Victoria

    Love that.

  • Victoria

    That misses the point of the article, which is under the current set up there would be nothing illegal or really unethical in a legal sense about doing what Joseph is saying is happening.   Because JobsOhio, as set up by Kasich and the GA, is a secret private organization and all sorts of inbred stuff can occur.  He is  questioning whether that it how we want things done–in secret.   It’s just too cozy and it makes it too easy for people to go astray even without intention to do so.   (Who cares if someones ancestor set up a seminary?  Means nothing now.   I hate when people bring phony religious stuff into an argument like this.)   This is a real issue and since Kasich wants to keep JobsOhio top secret and spend our money secretly–gossip will be our only source of information from inside the organization.  Good Job Joseph.

  • Modern Esquire

    So you’re suggesting that her online bio is dishonest?

    Look, we aren’t attacking her entire family descendants, or her except to say that her prior experience with underwriting the State’s liquor profits, coupled with her apparently relationship with Kvamme, and the idea of liquor profits as a means to fund JobsOhio, suggests some obvious questions, but they can’t be answered due to JobsOhio’s secrecy.

  • Did you actually read the post?

    I clearly and explicitly state that there is no evidence of  “anything illegal, immoral, unethical or even unlikable about the relationship between Kvamme and Browning” BUT the fact that JobsOhio and its staff are completely exempt from all sunshine, ethics and financial disclosure requirements means we would never know if there was something questionable going on.

  • Interesting comment, Mr/Ms SickOfIdiots, but I do have to wonder what someone in Northern California is doing commenting on an Ohio political blog?

    I’m guessing you are a friend or relative or offspring of Mark? Whatever the relation, I would hope you don’t take this personally.

    This piece is not really about Mark, it’s about JobsOhio and the dangers associated with its implementation. Mark’s personal relationships are not really my concern, but they do serve as a good example of the possible problems that could result from a complete lack of transparency and openness when it comes to the oversight of public funds.

    I can assure you my kittens (and flies) still have their legs. And, sadly, you seem to have found all of the interesting dirt available on me already: I’m a computer geek. It’s true.

    Feel free to email me directly:

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