COLUMBUS — Ohio taxpayers’ tab for protecting Gov. John Kasich while he campaigns for president outside the state apparently played a role in Monday’s release of an additional $2.5 million for the Ohio Highway Patrol.
The Ohio Controlling Board, a largely legislative budgetary panel chaired by a Kasich appointee, unanimously agreed to release the money, but only after a Democratic lawmaker was denied details on specifically how much was related to the governor’s campaign for the presidential nomination.
The money was part of a broad request covering “ancillary expenses related to security and investigations.” One of the listed expenses is for “dignitary protection.”
The transfer of existing money for the fiscal year ending June 30 would prevent “cost-cutting measures,” according to the application from the Department of Public Safety.
The change increases the total appropriation for security and investigations within the highway patrol from $9.7 million to $12.2 million. Of the increase, $2.2 million is tied to payroll and $300,000 to supplies and maintenance.
“To ensure the safety and security, we do not discuss any of the resources that are used as part of the executive’s security detail,” said Maj. Marla Gatskill, commander of the highway patrol’s office of planning and analysis. “If we did so, it could potentially compromise the safety of any of the dignitaries that we are charged with protecting [under state law].”
The increase does not include security costs related to the Republican National Convention, to be held in Cleveland in July.
Despite his questions, state Rep. Kevin Boyce (D., Columbus) voted with the rest of the board to release the money.
“I think protection of our governor is an important thing,” he said after the vote.
But he said he was frustrated by the lack of detail in how the money is being spent and said his questions would have jeopardized no one’s safety.
“I wasn’t asking for the location or the specifics of who,” he said. “I was just trying to understand where those costs go and what we’re responsible for as a state. … I think that’s what [the controlling board is] here for.”
The Ohio Supreme Court has held that information related to the governor’s security can be withheld under Ohio’s public-records law.
But this request and annual state employee data released routinely last month have provided hints as to the cost to taxpayers.
The salary data revealed that nine highway patrol officers assigned to the “Executive Protection Unit” in 2015 alone had run up $183,634 in overtime, an increase of nearly 64 percent over 2014, during this fiscal year’s first six months.
Those figures did not include any additional travel expenses, such as lodging and meals.
Mr. Kasich officially became a candidate in July. Although he has won just one state, his own, and trails badly in delegates pledged, he has stayed in the Republican presidential race along with front-running New York real estate mogul Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
The governor hopes the party will ultimately turn to him in a contested Cleveland convention, assuming no other candidate secures the 1,237 delegates needed before then to lock up the nomination.
Mr. Kasich has not requested federal Secret Service protection, but some other candidates have done so because of specific security concerns or large crowds at rallies, such as those for Mr. Trump and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D., Vermont).
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.
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