Ohio treasurer gives bank contract, gets political fund-raiser

COLUMBUS — Just a week after winning a new contract from Ohio Treasurer Kevin Boyce, Key Bank officials are hosting a $500-a ticket political fund-raiser for him in Cleveland on Tuesday, July 28.

Although the state has processed its own checks for more than 100 years, Boyce hired Key Bank to handle roughly 485,000 checks per month.

The contract is worth more than $160,000 a year but taxpayers will save at least $83,000 a year because the state expects to earn more interest off the checks, which will be deposited more quickly, and other in-house costs will be cut, according to Mike Culp, Boyce’s chief of staff. Two state employees who currently process checks will be assigned other work, he said.

Banks were invited to bid July 1, their responses were due July 15 and Key Bank got the work July 20.

“This could be the right decision but it’s clouded by this fundraiser and it’s clouded by how quickly this happened,” said Catherine Turcer of Ohio Citizen Action, a non-partisan good government organization.

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Political contributions had nothing to do with the contract, Culp said.

“What motivated the treasurer’s office was that it’s a cheaper, more secure, and more technologically-advanced way to process warrants,” he said in an e-mail. Currently, when the state issues a check to pay for something, it gets processed by the banks and sent back to the state as a printed image. Electronic images of checks will replace printed images.

Key Bank lobbyist Erskine Cade, who is co-hosting the fund-raiser at the Key Bank Tower in downtown Cleveland, agreed and said he didn’t even know about the new contract.

Key Bank’s political action committees have contributed $680,634 to state and local candidates and parties over the last five years, including $3,250 to Boyce’s campaigns, according to state records.

Boyce, a Democrat and a former Columbus City Councilman, was appointed state treasurer in January by Gov. Ted Strickland.

He is running for election against Republican Josh Mandel, a state representative and Iraqi war veteran from Lyndhurst.

Cade and Charlie Luken, former Cincinnati mayor and another Key Bank lobbyist, are listed as hosts for the fund-raiser. Boyce hired Luken’s sister to work treasurer’s office.

Culp said neither he nor Boyce made calls to ask donors to attend the fund-raiser or make contributions.

Contact this reporter at (614)224-1624 or lbischoff@DaytonDailyNews.com.

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