State ethics panel says it has no jurisdiction over JobsOhio charges

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, and his challenger Ed FitzGerald, right.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, and his challenger Ed FitzGerald, right.

COLUMBUS — A state ethics panel indicated today it has no jurisdiction over alleged conflicts of interests with Gov. John Kasich’s private non-profit economic development corporation as it appeared to be ready to dismiss complaints filed by Democrats.

While the Ohio Ethics Commission does have jurisdiction over financial disclosure filings by elected officials, the body’s veteran chairman, Merom Brachman, said a letter received Wednesday by an attorney for Mr. Kasich goes above and beyond what was required in the governor’s filings.

Mr. Kasich’s expected Democratic opponent in next year’s election, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, and the Ohio Democratic Party have raised questions about potential conflicts of interest among executive members of the non-profit JobsOhio and their corporations that have benefited from economic incentive packages.

They’ve also questioned Mr. Kasich’s ties to Worthington Industries, Inc. which has received help through JobsOhio even as the governor continues to receive deferred compensation from his prior role as a corporate board member.

“That matter of the disclosure is not before the commission,” Mr. Brachman said. “That information goes into the public file. There is no relevance whatsoever to what I saw with Mr. FitzGerald.”

The law that created JobsOhio in 2011 shortly after Mr. Kasich took office specifically exempted the private entity from many ethics and open records laws that apply to state agencies.

Any decision as to whether to dismiss complaints related to the JobsOhio board members would take place in executive session, but members and the commission’s executive director made it clear they don’t have jurisdiction beyond receiving the financial disclosure files.