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Government and Politics

Auditor subpoenas to see JobsOhio's books
Republicans battle over a jobs agency Democrats have long questioned

Jo Ingles
In The Region:
Ohio’s Republican auditor, Dave Yost, has subpoenaed JobsOhio, asking the private development agency to hand over financial records through the end of last June. But as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, some state leaders say the auditor lacks the authority to do that.
Auditor wants to see JobsOhio's books

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Ohio’s Republican auditor, Dave Yost, has issued a subpoena to JobsOhio, asking the private development agency to hand over financial records through the end of last June.

This follows a private audit that shows JobsOhio received more than $5 million in state grants that many lawmakers say they didn’t know about. And they say that money had not been disclosed in previous financial statements.  When asked by reporters about the subpoena, Republican Gov.John Kasich minimized the notion that he has a big disagreement with Yost.

"The thing is they want to audit more than the public money and it gets to be problematic.  If we give an incentive to a company here and they want to go in and audit their books, it gets to be really unworkable and disruptive.  But if a company takes public money, that money ought to be audited by the auditor of the state. It’s no more complicated than that.
"Look, I mean sometimes you read things and it appears one way. It’s just a little disagreement about how we should proceed.

When Kasich was asked if he knew about the $five million grant amount, the governor responded this way.

"You need to understand how this all works. It’s a complicated entity and I would suggest that you go talk to the development service agency and get over to JobsOhio and talk to them so you will understand how this all comes together.

Kasich says Yost does not have the right to audit anything beyond public dollars and if an amendment spelling out a clarification in law about how JobsOhio can be audited is needed, he says lawmakers will get it. But the Republican speaker of the Ohio House, Bill Batchelder, says he was key in writing the rules to begin with and says it is already clear that Yost is overstepping his authority.

"He doesn’t have that authority to go into a private corporation to audit it. I’m waiting for him to try to get into Chrysler Motors or Fiat or whatever they call it now.

Batchelder says there’s no reason to think there’s anything improper happening at JobsOhio.

"There might be a perception problem created by the auditor but I think most people understood that board. You’ve looked at the list of board members. These are people above reproach.  I mean this is not some group of cowboys.

But Ohio’s Democratic Party Chairman, Chris Redfern, says he can’t understand the governor’s response to these questions.

"The fact of the matter is, it all seems so defensive, so reactive if the first response from the governor’s office is: It’s complicated and oh yeah, we are going to get an amendment added to a bill that would essentially strip away the state auditor’s ability to audit the books."

Redfern says there’s no legal way nearly $five millionof state money could have been transferred to JobsOhio without the authority of the Ohio Legislature. And Redfern says that authority has never been given for those dollars. 

"And no one is down at the Statehouse right now threatening to storm the door saying, 'What on Earth is going on? There are 4.3 million dollars missing.'"

Recently, the state offered $100 million dollars in state bonds to provide more money for JobsOhio.  Democratic State Rep. Jay Carney says, until these questions are answered, that transaction should be put on hold.
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