On Wednesday, the Ohio House overwhelmingly approved legislation that would restructure what remains of the state Department of Development, after the creation of JobsOhio. Now the bill goes to the state Senate, where attention should focus on a concern raised by Mike DeWine. The attorney general warns that the legislation would convert public records into state secrets.
The governor’s office and other boosters of the bill insist that wasn’t the intention. All the easier, then, to make the repair, remaining true to the spirit and letter of the state’s public records law.
The matter of sufficient transparency has dogged JobsOhio, Gov. John Kasich and others arguing that negotiations with private companies on development deals require a degree of confidentiality. The trouble is, public resources are at stake, making it hard to accept a simple “trust us.”
DeWine spotted in the legislation a provision that states records created or received by JobsOhio are not public. As the attorney general explained, once a public record from, for instance, the Department of Aging was sent to JobsOhio, it would get “immunized from public disclosure.” DeWine rightly concluded “that’s just wrong,” running counter to the long tradition of openness.
Now senators must make the necessary fix. JobsOhio presents enough headaches regarding accountability. It shouldn’t become an office where public records go to disappear.