State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) early this morning responded to the passage of Senate Bill 268, a bill increasing penalties for theft in public office. The Bellaire lawmaker supported the bill, but noted the lack of state laws that protect state employees who come forward to report wrongdoing and corruption to authorities.
“Corruption has no place in government. Over the last year, we’ve seen pay-to-play schemes, FBI investigations and the misuse of taxpayer money to line the pockets of political friends. Ohio taxpayers deserve better,” said Cera. “We need to hold elected officials accountable. That’s why I support this bill, but I also support protections for those who expose wrongdoing and corruption in state offices.”
In the last year, employees vocalized problems with the Department of Administrative Service’s rigged, no-bid IT contract scheme that saw tens of millions in misspent taxpayer dollars handed out with little to no oversight. DAS officials even investigated an employee who tried to blow the whistle on the alleged schemes.
Today, the state inspector general released a report on the incidents showing a much deeper pattern of taxpayer abuse.
“This legislation today cracks down on potential theft in the future, but doesn’t do enough to fix the ongoing corruption right in front of us,” added Cera. “I am hopeful for real reforms in the new year that empower and protect employees who witness theft and corruption that wastes Ohioans’ hard-earned tax dollars.”
Current Ohio law recognizes public and private sector employees who blow the whistle on potentially corrupt activities, but it provides them few protections from retribution, retaliation and loss of earnings and compensation for doing the right thing.
Cera and House Democrats introduced a bill earlier this year to make sweeping changes to Ohio whistleblower laws, but it has yet to receive a committee hearing from majority Republicans.
Cera’s bill would have simplified reporting, broadened coverage of protected disclosures, better protected whistleblowers from all forms of retaliation, increased the time to bring suit for retaliation, and improved remedies for those who experience retaliation. Cera says he plans to make it a priority in the new year.