Democrat presses Development official on JobsOhio

JULIE CARR SMYTH AP Statehouse Correspondent Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A Democratic state representative and party leader tried and failed Monday to put a temporary halt to some development spending amid a dispute involving Gov. John Kasich's private job-creation entity, JobsOhio.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman and state Rep. Chris Redfern held nine spending requests -- totaling more than $17.7 million -- for the Ohio Development Services Agency in hopes of sparking discussion of about $5 million in state money that was somehow transferred to JobsOhio without legislative approval. The Controlling Board ultimately approved the items.

Auditor Dave Yost, Kasich's fellow Republican, has subpoenaed JobsOhio's financial records as he undertakes an audit. The Kasich administration and GOP state legislative leaders have said the audit of private funds is outside Yost's authority -- as would be the private books of any business.

Redfern asked the agency's legislative liaison, John Mahaney, whether the money being distributed through Monday's requests would be subject to such an audit.

Mahaney couldn't readily answer, nor was he prepared to discuss how the $5 million previously administered by the Ohio Business Development Coalition got in the hands of the private job-creation entity.

"I would have to check with our legal counsel," he said.

Development Services Agency spokesman Todd Walker also could not readily say how the $5 million got to JobsOhio, nor whether similar grants are subject to legislative approval or audit.

Walker didn't answer questions after the meeting, asking reporters to submit them in writing to be answer later.

JobsOhio has been criticized practically since its creation in 2011 for its lack of transparency. Its ability as a private entity to manage taxpayer dollars under Ohio's Constitution also is the subject of an ongoing legal challenge.