COLUMBUS-Kevin Boyce was heading for an accounting degree when he decided to take a University of Toledo political science class taught by a professor by the name of Jack Ford.
At the school on a track and field scholarship, he peppered the then-Toledo city councilman with questions. The accounting track became a political science degree, and before long the Columbus native was back in his state-capital home as Mr. Ford's aide after Mr. Ford became state representative.
That set Mr. Boyce, 39, on a path to Columbus City Council and then treasurer, Ohio's top investor and banker, who handled a portfolio of $15.5 billion in 2009.
Gov. Ted Strickland named Mr. Boyce, a Democrat, treasurer in early 2009 to fill a vacancy after the scandal-driven resignation of Attorney General Marc Dann. Mr. Boyce is seeking a full four-year term.
Mr. Boyce was 7 when his father was murdered, and he grew up in Columbus public housing. "The struggle for my single mom to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table, to hold a few jobs all at once just to keep things together-our story is really not unlike a lot of stories around Ohio. …," he said.
The treasurer oversees and invests state funds, selling bonds to help pay for programs and help small businesses find capital. He is custodian of Ohio's public pension funds but does not invest those funds.
Mr. Boyce came into office just after the bottom dropped out of Ohio's economy. "A lot of states were losing money," he said. "We didn't lose one single penny. Last year, during the worst economic times since the Depression, we earned over $200 million, and reduced our pension fund fees and costs by 63 percent on top of a reduction of our office operating expenses of 11 percent."
He took a pay cut.
The state treasurer rarely makes headlines unless there is a whiff of scandal, and usually that is in some way tied to campaign fund-raising from banks and other financial interests.
But Mr. Mandel has made an issue of Mr. Boyce's award of a contract to handle the global assets of Ohio's pension funds to State Street Bank, a Boston firm under fire for allegedly overcharging California pension funds for foreign exchange fees.
Mr. Boyce said he sought competitive bids rather than negotiate it as had been done. State Street had not had a contract with Ohio in two years, so he said the firm submitted a low bid to get its foot back in the door. That saved the state $20 million in fees. He noted the Ohio contract did not involve foreign-exchange fees.
But Mr. Mandel questioned the timing of State Street's bid submission and its hiring soon after of the husband of Mr. Boyce's assistant as a lobbyist.
"State Street Bank is one of the largest banks in the country," Mr. Mandel said. "It's highly unusual that it would hire a 30-year immigration attorney from Columbus who'd never lobbied in his life … to try to secure tens of billions of dollars in state funds. … It does not pass the smell test."
Mr. Boyce said once the sealed bids are submitted, the treasurer's office goes into communications blackout while bids are scored.
"One of the beauties of the competitive bidding process is it takes the people, relationships, and politics out of the process and focuses on the most responsive and best bidder," he said.
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