Last September, the Dayton Daily News used public records from the Statehouse parking garage to document the comings and goings of Senate Chief of Staff Jason Mauk and Communications Director John McClelland, who held their state jobs while also running a private political consulting business.
The records were virtually the only documents that provide a road map for when Senate employees arrive at and leave work since they previously had not been required to fill out time cards or swipe key cards.
Two months after the story ran, state Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield, told Statehouse staff to order 285 new parking passes that would have no longer identified individuals entering and leaving the garage. The passes cost taxpayers $7,125.
The plan to use the new passes was shelved, however, after House leaders questioned whether the passes would hinder public accountability.
“Currently all statehouse passes have a unique number identifier that allows the House Administrative Office or the public to view all parking garage entrance and exit times,” Deputy Administrative Officer Craig Fleck wrote last month in a one-page memo to new House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville. “The House has used parking records in the past to audit the honesty of staff.”
Fleck said he had not heard of anyone endorsing the plan other than Widener, who had ordered the implementation in his role of chairman of the Capital Square Review and Advisory Board.
Widener, who is the number two leader in the Ohio Senate, on Monday declined to answer questions posed to him in person about the new passes. Instead, he reiterated his personal policy that he will only answer media questions submitted to him in writing.
"There is no change to the current parking garage access system. Passes purchased will be used for future and renewed monthly and annual patrons of the statehouse garage,” Widener wrote two days later in response to questions about why he ordered the passes.