On Tuesday, JobsOhio chose to comply with a subpoena for financial records from the state auditor. The private entity formed to drive economic development did not concede quietly. In a letter to the auditor’s office, John Minor, the JobsOhio president and chief investment officer, insisted the documents “are being provided voluntarily,” while reserving the organization’s legal right “to protect the corporation from this unwarranted and unlawful governmental intrusion into the affairs of a private, non-profit corporation.”
Minor left the greater fury to Rob Nichols. The press secretary to Gov. John Kasich accused David Yost, the state auditor, of trying “to rewrite the law to make JobsOhio a slow, bureaucratic public body again,” a step that would “kill JobsOhio and its job creation efforts.” Nichols warned that companies working with the state would “fear that government auditors will seize and disclose their confidential business records.”
William Batchelder then topped Nichols for outrage, the House speaker, according to the Columbus Dispatch, calling the auditor “erratic,” and “not only incorrect but, frankly, downright frightening.” Batchelder argues the law creating JobsOhio plainly states “it is not subject to an audit,” adding in exasperation, “I don’t know how many times we have to tell him what the law is.”
Batchelder would do well to recall the legislative debate about JobsOhio. Democratic critics warned about a lack of transparency. In response, Republicans trumpeted a letter from Yost, a Republican, too, stating his office has the power to follow the public money wherever it may go. Who’s erratic?
So Yost isn’t trying to rewrite the law. Neither is an audit likely to turn JobsOhio into a lumbering bureaucracy. Rob Nichols surely knows better, yet he upped the hyperbole factor with his claim about seizing and disclosing confidential business records. Companies have protection regarding what deserves confidentiality. Yost seeks no more than to do the job voters elected him to perform. State law gives his office the authority to “audit the accounts of private institutions, associations, boards and corporations receiving public money.”
Perhaps the most audacious contention by the governor’s office and its allies is the notion once JobsOhio issued bonds, the resulting revenue stream amounts to private money. (For another example of such audacity, see the editorial below, headlined “Order of transparency.”) Yet the money to cover the bonds and fuel the operation comes from state liquor revenues. JobsOhio hardly is Goodyear or Procter & Gamble. It wouldn’t function without the flow of public dollars.
Thus, David Yost isn’t “mistaken” or “overly intrusive” (Nichols’ words). He simply wants to ensure that public dollars are well spent.