Editorial: Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel's meritorious call for greater transparency in JobsOhio

Editorial from The Plain Dealer As part of his laudable efforts to open up "Ohio's checkbook" to taxpayers, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel recently called for JobsOhio, the state's quasi-private economic development arm, to reveal how it spends its money.

"I believe the benefit of empowering Ohio taxpayers to see how the money is being spent there outweighs the cost of other states seeing how the money is being spent," Mandel said during a gathering last month arranged by the Associated Press.

That's a welcome embrace of transparency by Mandel, whose office recently debuted Ohiocheckbook.com, which Mandel said lists every expenditure the state makes in an easily accessible database.

Mandel said for this editorial that he wants to discuss with JobsOhio having its expenses publicly itemized like those of the state's other agencies.

JobsOhio spokesman Matt Englehart said JobsOhio welcomes such a meeting but insisted that certain details about JobsOhio dealings must remain hidden, lest the state lose its competitive advantage attracting jobs. Englehart argued that JobsOhio already is audited privately and that its financials are posted on its website.

"We're probably the most transparent private company Ohio has ever seen and that's mandated by law," Englehart stated in an email.

And yet JobsOhio should no more be considered a "private company" than the Ohio Department of Transportation.

As Ohio Auditor Dave Yost repeatedly noted when he tried unsuccessfully to audit JobsOhio's books -- before state lawmakers barred Yost from doing so with a special law shielding how JobsOhio spends its funds -- JobsOhio should be publicly audited since part of its money is, in essence, the public's money, income derived from profits of the state's liquor monopoly.

Yost -- and Mandel -- are right. JobsOhio is wrong.

As Mandel notes, JobsOhio can show how its money is being spent without divulging the content of sensitive discussions, but, regardless, the state should always err on the side of full disclosure.

We agree. Gov. John Kasich claims JobsOhio, his signature economic development program, is better equipped to attract jobs to the state because it is run by business people. Maybe so. But those business people are spending what amounts to the public's dime. They should be held accountable to the Ohio taxpayer for the decisions they make.