Ohiocheckbook.com should be a great tool for editors and reporters

By Dennis Hetzel, OCOG President This week State Treasurer Josh Mandel launched his OhioCheckbook.com website.  I was given a test drive on Tuesday, and it’s an impressive tool that could generate interesting stories and save time for any reporter writing about state spending.

You can quickly drill into the detail, including payments to individual vendors and contact information for the departmental official responsible for the expenditure.  You also can export data directly into Excel, so you aren’t limited to PDF formats.  (For example, in about two minutes, I found out the state of Ohio has spent about $242,000 so far in 2014 at Hilton hotels, and I exported detail of every expenditure.)

The database does not include local government spending, which would be quite an undertaking to add.  Mandel’s website continues to offer a searchable database of state employee and public school district salaries. Salaries paid by charter schools aren’t available either. We’d obviously like to see those items added in the future. Still,  this probably places Ohio in the forefront of ready access to spending information.

I should add that ONA has supported House Bill 175, which would mandate by statute that the state treasurer offer such a database.  If it becomes law, this means future treasurers couldn’t discontinue doing this without a statutory change. The bill is pending in the Ohio Senate. ONA has not taken a position on disputes that still may be lingering over what state agency or office is the best place to house this database.

Here is a link to the Dayton Daily News story on the new website.  You’ll learn that, yes, the taxpayers spent money at Victoria’s Secret – but it’s not what you think.  Also be sure to check out Mandel’s news release.