Last month, Auditor Dave “At Least I’m Not Mike DeWine” Yost announced that his Office would conduct “sunshine audits” of any public entity in the state to check for violations of the Ohio Public Records Act.
Sure, it was some obvious political grandstanding during “Sunshine Week.” But with all the crazy shit the Republicans in the Legislature have been threatening to do recently, we will take our small victories for sanity where we can find them.
The Response of the Republican Leadership to Yost’s efforts: “This Sanity Shall Not Stand.”
Under the program, Ohio residents can complain that a state agency is not complying with its obligations under the Ohio Public Records laws. Yost’s office will send a non-complying public entity “a noncompliance citation.” The hope is that such citations, and the possibility of a “finding” would motivate the entity to issue the records out of fear that it would lose in court.
If the Auditor finds that the agency has not complied with the state open records laws, the Auditor can issue a “finding.” Generally, a finding of non compliance by a state agency and $1.75 gets you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. However, an audit report includes a noncompliance citation which falls under the jurisdiction of a particular state agency, the matter may be referred to the Attorney General. In that csituation, the Auditor’s office asserts that “the Attorney General, at the request of the Auditor of State, [may] undertake appropriate action to secure compliance with the laws by a public office.” Violations can also be reported to local prosecutors or the Ethics Commission.
It seems that this program has made some Republicans very unhappy. Perhaps it is the Kasich Administration, which does not want to disclose public records of the Ohio Department of Health relating to its relationship to Ohio Right to Life . or disclose records related to whether the funds to protect the governor are actually spent in response to real threats. Even the Dispatch’s Kasich Cheerleader Ben Marrison noted how much the GOP hates sunshine: In a column we highlighted he decried the decrease in access to public records in Ohio over the past few years. He writes, “Based on what I heard from many of you, you’re fired up that state lawmakers are continuing to keep public information from you.”
House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger is coming to the rescue. Earlier this week, Ohio House Republicans tried to insert language into the state budget plan that would shield state officials from audits that would determine whether they are following public-records laws.
Rosenberger says that the measure merely clarifies the auditor’s duties.
To which we say: bollocks. Since when has anyone cared about the proper duties of the auditor? If you asked 50 people what the State Auditor does, we will wager a nice Plunderbund T-Shirt that nobody can tell you.
So the one time a State Auditor tries to actually do something, you know, helpful, the Republicans in the Legislature try to shut him down.
There’s lesson here.
P.S. And at least nobody can say we don’t say nice things about Republicans. You’re welcome, Mr. Yost.