Official wants Ohio’s ‘checkbook’ online


First Posted: 8/20/2014

LIMA — Ohio’s treasurer visted Lima on Wednesday to pitch his vision of creating a transparent database for the public to use that shows how local and state governments are spending money.

The ultimate goal of the idea is to make legislators “think twice” before spending copious amounts of tax money on dinners out on the town, or trips to conferences in Hawaii, or other expenditures that may be deemed unnecessary, according to Josh Mandel.

“Open Ohio,” or House Bill 175, was initially introduced by state Rep. Mike Dovilla, R-Berea. The Ohio House of Representatives has passed the bill and it awaits consideration in the Ohio Senate. Mandel said taxpayers have the right to know how their money is being spent, and should have access to it any time they choose. The database would provide data from the past five years, forward.

This idea faced some “no” votes during the House’s vote, something Mandel said can be attributed to the idea that many legislators want to continue to “hide the state’s spending,” he said. “My vision with this legislation is to create an army of citizen auditors throughout Ohio.” Something Mandel said State Auditor Dave Yost supports.

If the state’s checkbook is online, Mandel would like to see smaller governments, cities, and even school districts follow suit, creating a local realm of accountability closer to home for residents. The price tag for smaller governments to do the same could be high, however Mandel said the finances would fall upon the shoulders of the state, as well as house their information in the treasurer’s database at http://ohiotreasurer.gov. Mandel would also like to see university pension plans online as well.

Mandel said he is going to remain “vigilant” to push the bill through the Senate.

“Josh Mandel could put his own office’s spending online today without legislation, as he could have at any point since January 2011. He has refused to do so,” said Brian Hester, deputy communications director of the Ohio Democratic Party. “Had he done so, Ohioans would have learned sooner about how Mandel spent taxpayer money to send his unqualified former campaign staffer to attend a beginner’s training course in NYC and gave his political appointees 15 percent raises. But given Mandel’s well-documented history of not responding to public records request, he’s the last politician who should call himself a champion of transparency in an election year.”

Other supporters of this bill include the Ohio Newspaper Association, The Ohio Society of CPAs, the Buckeye Institute, Ohio Public Interest Research Group.