Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted, R-Kettering, said the legislature won't rush into expanding the powers of the state inspector general's office in reaction to the attorney general scandal. That's wise because a bill introduced on May 23 to broaden the scope of the inspector general's authority raises some red flags.
The inspector general is authorized to investigate agencies and departments only in the governor's administration. The bill would expand that jurisdiction to include all the statewide elective offices, and it would shift the authority for appointing the inspector general, subject to Senate confirmation, from the governor to the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. This change would take effect in 2011. Inspector General Thomas P. Charles has said a permanent expansion of his authority would require an increase in his staff.
Without widened jurisdiction, the inspector general can investigate other elected statewide officeholders only if the legislature authorizes it. That's what happened recently in the probe of allegations against former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann and his top advisers. The Youngstown-area Democrat resigned under pressure on May 14, after the firings or resignations of several top lieutenants for their part in a sexual-harassment scandal.
It made sense for the General Assembly and Gov. Ted Strickland to give Charles temporary power to investigate the attorney general's office.
Were some future scandal to erupt in one of Ohio's statewide offices, state leaders should be capable of reacting as swiftly and effectively as they did in the Dann case. Given that such circumstances are rare, why create an investigative bureaucracy when special powers for investigations simply could be granted as needed?