I challenge our readers and anyone in the media to cite me one example in Ohio history prior to RobsOhio in which the legislature acted to stop a pending audit by the State Auditor or any pending investigation of the Executive Branch by removing from that office its jurisdiction to conduct such an investigation.
I can’t think of any, nor could I find an example in my research. And yet, that’s what the Ohio House of Representatives did today. They passed a bill that would prevent the State Auditor, a fellow Republican, from completing and release a public report of his audit of JobsOhio after reviewing records the Kasich Administration had agreed to supply Yost’s office pursuant to his subpoena. Why? What is in those records that the Kasich Administration is moving the House and Senate to prevent from being released publicly?
But if you actually go and read the committee amendments to SB 67 from today, you’ll see that the amendments don’t just create a blanket exception for JobsOhio from public auditing, but other privatized activity as well. Among the amendments the Ohio House passed today to SB 67:
Excludes from the public moneys the Auditor of State may audit, money or revenue earned by or from a person’s ownership, operation, or use of a tangible or intangible asset that was sold, was leased, was licensed, was the granting of a franchise, or was otherwise transferred or conveyed by a public office to the person under an agreement, for consideration.
- Revises the definition of “audit” to specify that only specific funds or accounts of a private institution, association, board, or corporation into which public money has been placed or deposited qualifies for an “audit.”
- Limits the Auditor of State’s audits to the specific funds or accounts of private institutions, associations, boards, and corporations into which has been placed or deposited public money from a public office.
- Authorizes the Auditor of State to audit some or all of the other nonpublic-money funds or accounts of a private institution, association, board, or corporation that has received public money from a public office only if one or more criteria apply.
Those limited criteria are:
The audit is specifically required or authorized by the Revised Code;
The private institution, association, board, or corporation requests that the auditor of state audit some or all of its other funds or accounts;
All of the revenue of the private institution, association, board, or corporation is composed of public money;
The private institution, association, board, or corporation failed to separately and independently account for the public money in its possession, in violation of section 117.431 of the Revised Code;
The auditor of state has a reasonable belief that the private institution, association, board, or corporation illegally expended, converted, misappropriated, or otherwise cannot account for the public money it received from a public office and that it is necessary to audit its other funds or accounts to make that determination.
- The amendment also requires “public money in the possession of any private institution, association, board, or corporation to be accounted for separately and independently from the private organization’s other funds and accounts.”
This would mean, for example, that the State Auditor’s Office couldn’t audit what CCA does with its corporate money in operating one of Ohio’s private prisons with its corporate money. Kasich’s budget proposed privatizing food services in Ohio’s prisons. This would seriously curtail the ability of the State Auditor’s Office to audit the effectiveness and effeciencies of such programs unless those operations are paid out of the same account the private company deposits the State of Ohio’s payment to it.
Again, why? Why is the Kasich Administration so hell bent on curtailing public auditing of private functions. Yost’s office asserting it has jurisdiction over such matters is not only not new, it’s well established law in Ohio. The State Auditor’s Office and others have audits private companies hired for state government activity for awhile now. Ohio courts have recognized that in certain circumstances, the State Auditor’s Office has legal jurisdiction to review the records of private companies even when those entities themselves did not directly receive public monies. See, Petro v. North Coast Villas Limited (9th Dist. 2000), 136 Ohio App.3d 94; State ex rel. Ministerial Day Care Assn. v. Montgomery (2003), 100 Ohio St.3d 343 (in which the Ohio Supreme Court cited the North Coast Villas case favorably); Oriana House, Inc. v. Montgomery (2006), 108 Ohio St.3d 419. If you read any of those cases, you’ll see two threads: 1) the same legal argument the Kasich Administration is making about the Auditor’s office not having jurisdiction over JobsOhio was raised by the private companies in these cases; 2) the courts have rejected them, and in so doing, wrongdoing was uncovered that protected taxpayers.
The amendment in SB 67 is dangerous because it would, in essence, overturn those precedents by fundamentally changing the jurisdiction of the State Auditor’s office so much that the Auditor’s office will no longer be able to obtain the records it needs to uncover wrongdoing by private companies with public money. By my read of this amendment and the facts cited in the case, if this amendment had been law, then the wrongdoers in those earlier cases all would have won in court and denied the ability of the State Auditor’s Office to uncover their misuse of public monies.
So, whatever you think of JobsOhio, don’t you at least think the legislature should spend more time considering this before effectively throwing out the legal basis that the Auditor’s Office has had to uncover wrongdoing with public money by private companies and their executives? Not only did the State Auditor’s Office not have an opportunity to testify on the matter, but it wasn’t even informed that the legislature was enacting such a change beforehand.
Is John Kasich’s JobsOhio baby so precious as to justify throwing out decades of accumately legal bathwater that has served taxpayers well?