Democrats criticize DeWine administration’s ethics, demand fixes

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In a pair of press conferences Thursday, Democrats in the state outlined plans to secure accountability and prevent similar behavior in the future.

CLEVELAND — Democrats are hammering Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration for a series of stories in recent months that they say raise serious ethical questions that underscore the need to change the law of the Ohio.

In late May, Ohioans learned that Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted sat on the board of directors of a bank a few months earlier. As head of the DeWine administration’s Common Sense Initiative, which reviews state regulations to “propel jobs and economic growth in Ohio,” the lieutenant governor’s influence could offer substantial, and potentially unfair, advantages to a bank seeking to expand.

It took more than a month for Husted to reveal how much he earned on the board.

More recently, documents related to the FirstEnergy corruption scandal indicate that DeWine and Husted played a much more active role than previously known. Text messages describe the pair performing “battlefield triage” to secure Sam Randazzo’s seat as head of the state’s Public Utilities Commission. Randazzo resigned after FirstEnergy admitted to paying him a $4.3 million bribe, but was not charged and denies wrongdoing.

The same trove of documents show that DeWine and Husted repeatedly met with Randazzo and state lawmakers to discuss Bill 6. Prosecutors allege that FirstEnergy funded the nuclear plant bailout through d a black money group controlled by Speaker of the House Larry Householder. Text messages indicate that Husted even advocated making the measure more lucrative for FirstEnergy by extending its duration.

At two press conferences on Thursday, Democrats outlined plans to secure accountability and prevent similar behavior in the future.

Stop me if you heard this one…

In Cleveland, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley stood on a street corner outside FirstEnergy Stadium, using it as a backdrop for her criticism of the DeWine administration’s role in enriching the company. thanks to HB 6.

“Frankly, more and more, their names should also be on the governor’s mansion.” said Whaley.

Whaley was particularly angry about a familiar issue.

“What’s particularly troubling is that they’ve done this work with their private emails to avoid detection, and so far they’ve refused to release any of these recordings,” he said. said Whaley.

Public records show a June 2019 email exchange between Sam Randazzo and Governor DeWine in which DeWine used his personal email account.

“Again, today, I call on DeWine and Husted to release all – all of their private emails and text messages about this scandal,” Whaley said. “This includes all communications with lawmakers that John Husted refused to even discuss.”

DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney called Whaley’s requests “dishonest” and argued that “she knows better than that.”

He acknowledged that DeWine uses a personal email account but treats all messages related to public affairs as a public record, and he regularly shares those emails when requested.

Separately, DeWine’s re-election campaign released a statement citing a 2014 FBI investigation of alleged corruption in Dayton.

“It would benefit the people of Ohio to see more transparency from Ms. Whaley on this issue instead of her trying to baseless slander,” campaign spokeswoman Tricia said. McLaughlin in an emailed statement.

This investigation was closed, however, and Whaley was never charged.

At the end of last year, his campaign published a “Fact checkdocument that cited and responded to several parts of the court documents. In it, Whaley noted that she was not the target of the investigation and that she had never met or interacted with the person who reported her. accused of wrongdoing.

In a statement at the time, Whaley said, “Investigators did exactly what they were supposed to do: examined him carefully and found nothing.”

She insisted she was glad the FBI stepped in to “root out corruption” in the city, and even found a chance to shoot DeWine.

“Unlike our current governor,” she added, “when I realized there was a corruption problem in my city, I took immediate action to address it and prevent it from happening. reproduce”.

Side gigs

House Minority Leader Allison Russo joined Representatives Casey Weinsten, D-Hudson, and Mary Lightbody, D-Westerville, on Thursday to announce a new Official State Integrity Act. The measure would prohibit elected officials statewide from performing private work or holding a private position for which they receive compensation. The only exception is compensation for service in the armed forces.

Rep. Weinstein called Husted’s decision to serve on Heartland Bank’s board of directors a “slap in the face.” If passed, he said, their proposal would require civil servants to relinquish their positions if they held a private position while serving.

The measure applies to the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, secretary of state and any state supreme court justice, but not to representatives or senators. . Russo explained that lawmakers representing a district, rather than the state as a whole, fall into a different category.

“Our Constitution requires our legislature to be a part-time citizens’ legislature, which means many of our members are encouraged to be members of their community,” Russo said. “That means having a job, going on boards, sometimes they can get paid for that. I think the distinction here is that we’re talking about state-wide public servants – those are part-time positions. full and well paid.”

Lightbody added that sometimes lawmakers have to give up private roles to even avoid the perception of a conflict of interest. She remembers having to step down from her seat on the Westerville Public Library Board after her election.

“It’s certainly an indication of the standard of ethical behavior that we’re supposed to be held to, and we’re just asking that our states, who have full-time jobs with the state and represent all Ohioans, hold at least the same standard that was expected to hold.”

The measure directs the Ohio Ethics Commission to enforce its provisions.

In an emailed statement, Lieutenant Governor Husted’s spokeswoman said, “We appreciate their acknowledgment that the Lieutenant Governor followed all the rules.”

“Certainly,” she added, “if they change the rules of the law, of course he will follow the news as well.”

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