Plunderbund enters its tenth year of covering Ohio politics in 2015 and make no mistake: we are just getting started!

With a diverse staff of expert contributors like Greg Mild and Leonidas, history buffs like Thomas Givens, a cadre of guest writers and a team of current and former professional reporters like John Michael Spinelli, Abe Zaidan and David DeWitt, we rocked 2014 with a steady stream of exclusive interviews, original reporting, creative commentary, in-depth research and lots of breaking political news.

Here’s a sampling of our big news…


Kasich’s New Health Director

Plunderbund was the first to report that John Kasich’s new director at the Ohio Department of Health does not quite meet the qualifications for the job.  According to state law, the director must be a medical doctor or have loads of public health experience.   Kasich’s appointee, Rich Hodges, former head of the Ohio Turnpike Commission, is not a doctor and has never worked in public health.

Interestingly, hours after we pointed on the problem, Hodges went online and altered his LinkedIn profile to include some random job he held ten years ago at a hospital, a job that still didn’t make him a medical doctor or someone with any public health experience what-so-ever.

When it came time for Senate hearings to approve the Hodges appointment, Republican Shannon Jones refused to allow any testimony while Kasich attempted to defuse the situation by creating another job at Health for an actual doctor.  Dr. Mary DiOrio was appointed to the position, which pays the same as Hodges’ job ($140K per year) and only exists because Hodges does not have the background in public health to actually do the job to which he was appointed.

LG Mary Taylor’s Chief Of Staff Fired Over PB Public Record Request

In May of 2014 we made a public record request to the Ohio Department of Administrative Services for the time sheets, payroll records and garage access logs of Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor’s chief of staff and administrative assistant.   Within a month, both individuals were forced to resign when those records revealed the women, Laura Johnson and Heather Brandt, were billing hours on state time that they weren’t actually working.  According to a tip received by Plunderbund, Johnson was alleged to be working on the Kasich/Taylor campaign during work hours.

In typical Kasich Administration fashion, information about the resignations was released to the Associated Press prior to releasing the documents to Plunderbund, along with a statement from Taylor promising that the Ohio Highway Patrol and the State Inspector General’s Office would be looking into the incident.  According to the IG’s office, no completed investigation records exist for either individual.  And the Highway Patrol/Dept. of Public Safety has not responded to our request for additional information.

Sadly, this was one of the few interactions we had with the Kasich administration where they actually admitted fault and released the requested records without a huge fight.  We also saw the unfortunate end of our multi-year Ohio Supreme Court battle with the Kasich administration end with a loss in 2014, preventing us and the general public from knowing who threatened the governor or how many times, if at all, he actually received any threats.  We also saw Kasich’s Public Safety team refuse to investigate allegations of state employees illegally snooping on Democratic candidates, and his folks at the Department of Administrative Services refuse to release records about Kasich’s comings and goings at state buildings and state garages.

(Spoiler: more on these second two stories is coming soon!)

Kasich’s  State School Board

Right wing ideologues like John Kasich have long sought control of state schools boards with the promise of so-called “reform.”  But when they actually get control, the results are always disastrous.

Instead of appointing and supporting board members experienced in education and concerned about the success and well being of Ohio’s students, the current administration has glorified a bunch of racist homophobes,  creationists and hand-picked wachadoodles who want to ban books and publicly compare President Obama to Hitler.

Is it any wonder Board President Debe Terhar shut down testimony on discussions over a measure that would effectively eliminate art teachers, music teachers, librarians and school nurses from many of Ohio’s schools?

Thankfully Terhar won’t be around next year, and we’ll have a few more pro-public education members of the state school board.   But the big picture still looks bleak.


Public Records

The events of 2014 helped solidify Plunderbund’s reputation for aggressively pursuing the truth via public records.  Our DeWine Cookbook series revealed previously undisclosed details on the pay-to-play scandal in the Ohio’s Attorney General’s office.  Our revelations about potentially illegal searches of the BMV records of Democratic statewide office candidates have still not been sufficiently addressed (stay tuned for more on this.)   And while our lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Public Safety sadly saw the Ohio Supreme Court rule in favor of hiding public documents from our state’s citizens, we all got to see the true colors of Ohio’s Supreme Court Justices (from both parties) and of the Kasich Administration when it comes to government transparency.


Prosecutor Accused Of Monitoring Defense Attorneys In Courtroom

Last August we reported Republican Prosecutor David Fornshell was using audio equipment to overhear confidential conversations between attorneys and clients, and we published exclusive excerpts from emails sent by Fornshell.


Reynoldsburg Strike Coverage

If you were looking for information about the 2014 Reynoldsburg teacher’s strike, the only honest and consistent source came from Greg Mild at Plunderbund.  Greg was one of the first to report that the school board was planning to hire replacement teachers.   He reported on the insane amount of money the school board was spending to hire replacement teachers, how much the superintendent was making compared to teachers, and the dirty tactics used by Huffmaster, the “strike management company” hired by the school board to provide security guards and replacement teachers during the strike.


Dayton schools privatize substitute teachers

Did you remember reading about Dayton Public Schools paying one million dollars to an out-of-state company to place substitute teachers in classrooms?  If so, you found this news exclusively at Plunderbund.


Kasich’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee

We sincerely hope you didn’t miss our coverage of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee last year.   If you did, please start here and here.


Talent, Talent, Talent!

Plunderbund gained some amazing new talent in 2014, adding to our already awesome lineup.  David DeWitt, John Michael Spinelli and Thomas Givens joined Greg Mild, Abe Zaidan, Leonidas and a host of other expert and well-known guest writers in 2014.

David DeWitt hit the ground running with exclusive interviews and profiles of important progressives like David PepperNina Turner, Ed FitzGerald, Connie PillichBob Hagan and Sharen Neuhardt.  But it’s his serious-while-snarky take on important issues like inequality that really set him apart from the pack.  You can check out all his PB articles here.

John Spinelli brought his experience as an Ohio Statehouse reporter and his wealth of knowledge about Ohio politics to Plunderbund this year.  You can read his PB contributions here.

Greg Mild continued his run as Ohio’s top education reporter, and also the writer with the largest audience at PB.  You can read all of Greg’s work here.

Abe Zaidan continued to amaze with his decades of experience and his keen eye for killer snark.

And Leonidas lead the charge in the legal realm with his Simpsons-fueled smackdowns.


More Original Stories and Breaking News

Want to read more stories with original reporting, research and breaking news?

Here’s a short list!

AG Mike DeWine Was Unable To Practice Law In Ohio For Almost 10 Years
Kasich Makes Another Illegal Cabinet Appointment With Hodges At Health
John Kasich Dumps Bowl Of Water On Head, Whines Like Small Child
Mike DeWine Attempts To Sway FOP Vote With Photos Of Fake Police Officers
ORP Chairman Admits He Helped File Complaints Against Libertarian Candidates
Josh Mandel Makes Up Award To Gain Photo Ops With Ohio Workers
Virginia Group Campaigning Against Ohio Zoo Levy
Marc Kvamme Lies To Columbus CEO Magazine About JobsOhio
No Criteria, Lots Of Cash: DeWine Bid Process A Perfect Model Of Pay To Play
New Emails Show DeWine Gave Lucrative Contract To Highly Unqualified Donor
Top 10 Comments On John Kasich’s Fishing Photo Op
Right-Wing Ohio Blog Asks: Was Sandy Hook A Hoax?
Reynoldsburg School Board Pays Over $1.5 Million For “Strike Management”
Confirmed: Fired Kasich ODOT Appointee Violated Civil Rights Act
Here’s The DeWine/Sexual Harassment Article The Dispatch Didn’t Want You To See
Union-Busting & Privatization On Tap For Dayton Schools In New Year
Kasich and Renacci Delete Bowe Bergdahl Tweets
School Privatization Group Uses Personal Information About Kids To Target Parents
Kasich Refuses To Answer Candidate Questionnaire, Still Gets PD/NEO Media Endorsement
GOP Lawyer Val Hoover Pretends To Be Dem In Nonpartisan Judicial Race
JobsOhio Spends Nearly $1.8 Million On Salaries In Six Months
Ohio Justices French and Kennedy Would Allow Bans Of Contraceptives and Inter-Racial Marriage
Former Kasich Development Director Cuts Deal With Ohio Ethics Commission
The Unfortunate Work History Of State Rep. John Barnes Jr.
Richard May, Homophobic Candidate For Congress
Mike DeWine’s Campaign Manager Deletes Tweet Mocking Ebola Crisis
Kasich’s ODOT Hired “Kinkster” Scott W. Spencer Despite Long List Of Past Problems
JobsOhio Tweets Video Game Scores While Ohio Job Creation Continues to Flounder
DeWine Shuts Down Sexual Harassment Investigation
DeWine Pay-To-Play Cookbook: Special Access For Ohio Right-To-Life Leader
Bill Would Apply Reading Guarantee To Private School Voucher Students
Ohio Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Plunderbund v Kasich Administration
After Years Of Planning, Kasich Says He Never Wanted To Frack State Parks
DeWine, Husted Fight Arbitrator’s Award Of Raises For Union Workers In Contract Violation Dispute
Pepper Wins FOP Endorsement, DeWine Posts Picture Of Himself With A Sheriff
New Stats Prove Kasich, JobsOhio Have NO Control Over Jobs
Latest Kasich Mailer Full Of Half-Truths and Straight-Up Lies
Why Does John Kasich’s Office Maintain A Secret Internal Contact List?
Josh Mandel To Campaign With Tea Party “Penis Cakes” Guy
David Brennan’s Law Firm Makes Millions From DeWine Contract, Circumvents Campaign Finance Limits
OCSEA: Kasich Administration Making Conditions “Violently Dangerous” For Prison Staff
EXCLUSIVE: Plunderbund Obtains Emails From Prosecutor Accused Of Monitoring Defense Attorneys In Courtroom
DeWine Pay-To-Play Cookbook: A New Rainmaker At The Firm
Mike DeWine Puts Nearly $2 Million In Campaign Contributions “Back Into His Own Pocket”
Mike DeWine: More Extreme Than State Rep John Becker
Reynoldsburg Board Needs $2.5 Million? Found It…
Meet John Kasich’s Judicial Backstop:  Justice French
Brenner Tries To Backtrack On Calling Public Schools “Socialism”
State Rep. Andy Thompson Protests… Nuns???
Lobbyist Led Fundraiser Features DeWine And Diaper-Wearing Lemur
Teamwork To Make The Dream Work: Nina Turner On The Future Of The Ohio Democratic Party
Common Core Opponents Bringing In “Paid Experts” To Testify
State Rep Brenner Fundraises Using Email List From Wife’s Blog
More On The Case Of That NEOMG Disappearing Video
Kasich Mailer Blames Obamacare For His Poor Record On Job Creation
Mandel Touts Tall Tales About Transparency In Telephone Town Hall
When An Ohio Supreme Court Justice Turns Partisan
Ohio GOP Comms Director Thinks Ohioans Should Be Thankful For Maggots In Prison Food
How Did Your Candidate Answer The Cincinnati Right To Life Questionnaire?
Another Conflict Of Interest: AG’s Office Provided Active Shooter Training To Beavercreek Officer Just Days Before WalMart Incident
DeWine Pay-To-Play Cookbook: “Future Work” For Old Friends
Pro-Life Gonidakis Soars In GOP Circles
Ohio’s Private Schools Annually Receive Millions Of Dollars While Avoiding Accountability
Mike DeWine Excludes Local Law Enforcement From Crime Lab Planning
Collegial Harassment And Threats Of Violence In Mike DeWine’s Office
Hodges Heading ODH Shows Kasich’s Continued Contempt For Law, Public Health
DeWine’s Pay To Play Cookbook: In Bed With Anti-Gay Activists
Anti-Union Group Making GOTV Calls For John Barnes, Jr. In Democratic Primary
Kasich/JobsOhio Continue To Conflate Job “Commitments” With Actual Jobs
Rhee’s Anti-Union Group Supporting Patmon In Democratic Primary
Dems Pick David Pepper for ODP Chairman, Vow To ‘Stick Together’
Rhee’s Anti-Union Group Sends New Round Of Nasty Mailers For Patmon
John Kasich’s Next Book Title? How About ‘Cowardice Is Contagious?’
DeWine Believes Hobby Lobby Case Is About Religious Liberty And Abortion. Really?!?
Gonidakis Repays Kasich, DeWine With Right To Life Endorsements