Few ethics violations result in criminal convictions

Ohio Statehouse.

Combined ShapeCaption
Ohio Statehouse.

In Ohio, three watchdog agencies are charged with overseeing hundreds of thousands of employees. Those agencies conduct investigations, issue opinions, dole out advice and in rare cases refer criminal activity to local prosecutor’s offices.

Ohio taxpayers spend millions of dollars every year on the state’s efforts to ensure that public employees are following state ethics laws.

Here are the three agencies and how they operate:

Ohio Inspector General

Staffing: 15

Annual Budget: $2.2 million

History: Established in 1990

Jurisdiction: 156,000 employees of public colleges and universities as well as agencies under the governor’s control.

Governance: The IG is appointed by the governor to a four-year term

2016 work: Forty-eight cases opened from 397 complaints; 57 cases were closed, resulting in four criminal charges in three cases. Allegations were substantiated in 54 percent of the cases.

Ohio Ethics Commission

Staffing: 20

Annual Budget: $2.2 million

History: Established in 1973

Jurisdiction: Roughly 590,000 public employees, elected officeholders, vendors and appointees in state and local government are covered by the law. Of those, 10,300 are required to file annual financial disclosure statements.

Governance: The governor appoints six members – three from each party – to six-year terms. The commission deliberates on investigations in closed session.

Work in 2016: Advice dished out in 183 staff opinions, 3,247 emails, 2,071 phone calls about moonlighting, nepotism, travel and meals, gifts and other topics. Seventy-four investigation cases were opened while 71 were closed. Most of the investigations dealt with public contract and nepotism. And only 5 percent of investigations focused on state government; the rest centered on cities, counties, schools, townships, universities and vendors.

Joint Legislative Ethics Committee

Staffing: 6

Annual budget: $700,000

History: Established in 1994

Jurisdiction: 1,500 registered lobbyists and 800 lawmakers and legislative staff members.

Work in 2016: JLEC held one meeting, conducted 19 training sessions, issued 24 informal and one formal legal opinion, processed 38,000 reports, and responded to 2,272 calls and emails, records show.

About the Author