Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel says he’s a major proponent of government transparency, pointing often to the online Ohio Checkbook he created. But he’s also claiming there was no written communication among him and his senior staff about the cost of and payments for a $2 million series of television ads that ran last year at taxpayer expense.
That’s the opposite of transparency, several observers said Monday.
“It’s entirely not plausible that a state agency would find a way to spend $2 million on advertising without internal discussion about it or written communication about it,” said David R. Marburger, a Cleveland attorney who has written a book about Ohio’s open-records law. “It’s even more implausible that this would be designed to be in increments small enough to avoid the Board of Control with no written communication.”
Mandel announced in June of 2016 that his office would spend less than $800,000 on television advertising for the STABLE program, which allows families to set up tax-free accounts for disabled children.
The treasurer’s office ended up running about $2 million worth of commercials, which featured Mandel and Ohio State Football Coach Urban Meyer. And it broke up the buys into chunks of less than $50,000 apiece, thereby avoiding a requirement to get approval from the Controlling Board. In response, Mandel’s fellow Republicans in the legislature passed a law as part of the budget this year to put a stop to the practice.