Is it OK for a public entity to post or publish on an official social media account information that supports or opposes the outcome of a levy?
Can employees speak at levy committee meetings during regularly-paid work hours if they are advocating for a preferred outcome?
The answer in both cases is “no.”
The misconception some entities have about both questions is why Ohio Auditor Keith Faber issued a set of directives this week to to local governments and public school districts. It’s a timely reminder as we get closer to the March 17 primary election in Ohio.
“This time of year, our office receives lots of questions regarding the use of tax dollars and resources on these issues,” Faber said.
Among the directives he issued:
• Public money should not be used to support or oppose the passage of a levy or bond issue. This includes compensating employees for time spent on influencing the outcome of a bond or levy.
• The entity cannot spend money to create and send home political subdivision sponsored levy-related communications that support or oppose the passage of a levy.
• A levy committee is not allowed to use their subdivision’s resources such as equipment and supplies free-of-charge. The committee must pay for the usage and the committee with the opposite position shall have the same opportunity.
• Public funds should not be used to support or oppose the nomination or election of a candidate for public office.
• Public funds should not be used to support a particular campaign committee or fund, political action committee, political party, or candidate.
Though this is not comprehensive list, it addresses many concerns that have been expressed.
For a complete list, see Ohio Revised Code section 9.03.