Ohio Inspector General Randy Myers is supposed to be responsible to uncovering wrongdoing in state government.
So how’s that going? Well, as Joseph points out time and again, we are still waiting on a report on the biggest wrongdoing in state government from the past decade, coingate.
The Inspector General seems to spend much of his time covering up for the Kasich Administration. In one report, the IG found that Kasich staffers did not do anything wrong when they attempted to oust Kevin DeWine as Republican State Party Chair. Notably, that investigation failed to examine key documents like emails and phone records. In another report, the IG found that School Superintendent Stan Heffner had committed wrongdoing, but declined to refer the matter to the county prosecuting attorney.
The IG seems to be spending most of his time rooting out petty issues like ODNR employees hunting deer on state time and lottery employees misusing gas cards. (We aren’t trying to excuse wrongdoing but state employee – it’s just that Departments already have HR staff trained to look into these issues.)
All of that is why a small provision hidden in the appropriations bill shocked us. The provision authorizes a deputy inspector generals to have the powers of a peace officer while engaged in Inspector General duties.
In other words, the Inspector General wants to have police powers. He wants to be able to arrest people and charge them with crimes.
What is wrong with this?
This blurs the line between investigations into wrongdoing and law enforcement. As the law currently stands, the IG Office can assist law enforcement, but must stand aside when criminal conduct is discovered. This can lead to all sorts of confusion. For example, if a deputy inspector general is a law enforcement officer, is the deputy required to give Miranda warnings to government employees during interviews?
Giving an agency like the IG Office law enforcement powers is unprecedented in Ohio. Ohio has a long tradition of civilian control of law enforcement. Every law enforcement officer in Ohio reports to an elected official. Deputy sheriffs report to an elected sheriff, for example. Municipal police officers report to a mayor or other local official. An deputy IG reports only to the Inspector General who, while appointed by the Governor, acts independently.
In addition, the IG has subpoena powers. Usually, if a law enforcement officer wants to seize records, the officer must go to the prosecutor and obtain a grand jury subpoena or go before a judge and obtain a search warrant. If this law passes, law enforcement officers working for the IG could obtain records by issuing their own subpoenas.
What is most worrisome is that Ohio has a long tradition of local control of law enforcement. Establishing greater law enforcement powers in a state office is troublesome by itself. Trying to sneak these greater powers into an appropriations bill without full debate is downright scary.