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JobsOhio Under Fire from Democratic Lawmakers

Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 9:07 PM

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The question over whether JobsOhio can be audited by the state auditor is temporarily resolved, now that the non-profit job-creating entity has turned over its financial records to Auditor David Yost. But as Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports, the controversy around JobsOhio is far from over. Kasich sat down with Karen Kasler for an exclusive one-on-one interview this week. The full interview will air on The State of Ohio on PBS stations and at Statenews.org this weekend.

JobsOhio wasn’t on the agenda of the House Finance Committee. But it’s been on the minds of many Democrats, including Rep. Denise Driehaus of Cincinnati, who made a motion to the panel.

DRIEHAUS: “I would like to make a request by way of a motion for the chair to compel the president and chief investment officer John Minor of JobsOhio to testify before the House Finance and Appropriations Committee.”

As Driehaus started to offer some background for her request, Republican Ron Amstutz of Wooster, the chair of the committee, stepped in – and then was interrupted by ranking Democrat Vern Sykes of Akron.

AMSTUTZ: “Actually, the motion is out of order. I’m sorry. We are not prepared procedurally under that rule to go forward with the subpoena motion at this time. There’s nothing before the committee.”

SYKES: “What preparation is required, Mr. Chairman? May I ask?

AMSTUTZ: “Are you challenging the ruling of the chair?

SYKES: “Yes.”

AMSTUTZ: “The clerk will take the roll on the challenging of the chair’s ruling of the motion out of order.”

There was a very brief break, and then the committee came back, with Sykes still concerned.

SYKES: “…clarification, questions have been asked of the chair. I think it’s appropriate that you answer the question.”

AMSTUTZ: “You may proceed.”

WITNESS: “Good morning, Chairman Amstutz…”

There was no vote as Amstutz turned back to the next witness. Democrats have wanted JobsOhio CIO John Minor to testify about the operations of the entity, which this week turned over its financial records to auditor David Yost under protest, saying he doesn’t have the authority to audit its private dollars. And Gov. Kasich says that since JobsOhio has complied Yost’s subpoena, no one should worry that he’s trying to hide something.

KASICH: “Well, I don’t think so anymore because we turned all the records over. JobsOhio has already been audited by KPMG, the private auditor. We’ve now opened up all the records. But if the intent is to turn JobsOhio back into the Department of Development, which has failed us—I’m not for that. I’m for an entity, a private entity, a not-for-profit entity, there’s no more public money in that entity. And they’re hiring people to go out who can go out and talk the language of job creators, and I want them to keep doing it. And if it has to be clarified, then it has to be. But it’s not just JobsOhio. It’s any organization that ever received public money—are they subject to audit? And if they are, then it causes great concern for them. But let’s see where this all goes.”

In turning over its books to Yost, JobsOhio also announced it was paying back all the public money the state invested, and urging lawmakers to reassure businesses that confidential business records would not be made public and, as JobsOhio put it, “disclosed to their competitors.” But Democrats aren’t encouraged. Rep. Matt Lundy of Elyria said earlier this week that he still has many questions about the real purpose of JobsOhio.

LUNDY: “He created this unaccountable slush fund secret society.  And the governor needs to admit this is bad for Ohio. He made a mistake.”

I asked Kasich about that.

KASLER: “Democrats say this is a campaign slush fund for you – JobsOhio.”

KASICH: “I don’t pay much attention to what these political types say.”

Kasich says Ohio is up over 100,000 jobs, and JobsOhio has been instrumental in that. But the entity’s critics have said because of the lack of transparency in how JobsOhio operats, it’s impossible to pinpoint what jobs can actually be credited to the work done by JobsOhio. 

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Economy, Government/Politics

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