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Lawmakers respond to public corruption search warrant executed on Ohio House Republicans

State Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus) and Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) today issued the following statements in response to the release of a U.S. Department of Justice subpoena into allegations of Ohio House Republicans’ pay-to-play culture of corruption at the Statehouse:

“As this investigation into the Republican culture of corruption unravels at highest levels of power in the Ohio House, Republican House leadership is working overtime to distance themselves from their involvement while trying to paint Cliff Rosenberger as the sole actor in any illegal, pay-to-play schemes.

“Though Rosenberger was the first House speaker in history to resign amid a federal corruption investigation, his leadership team and former roommate, Speaker Ryan Smith, is still in control of the Ohio House and potentially illegal campaign funds, creating more questions than answers as to how deep this river of corruption runs at the Statehouse.”—Rep. David Leland

 
 
Asks governor to bring state heads to mediation table in civil rights investigation
August 22, 2018

State Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) recently sent a letter* to Gov. John Kasich asking him to bring his administration to the mediation table to resolve her Ohio Civil Rights Commission investigation into reported discrimination and bias surrounding Statehouse security practices.

“You frequently talk about bringing people together to solve problems and making sure our actions reflect our American values of equality and fairness,” Sykes wrote to Kasich. “I appeal to you in an effort to gain your assistance in bringing your Department of Public Safety and Department of Administrative Services to the mediation table with me and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to resolve experiences of gender discrimination and racial bias in Statehouse security practices.”

 
 

Education advocate and state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) today issued the following statement on Attorney General Mike DeWine’s announcement he is asking the courts to pursue recovery of some $60 million in stolen taxpayer funds from now defunct online charter school ECOT:

“Taxpayers are right to be concerned that they may never receive a return on their eighty-million dollar investment into an online charter school that was more concerned about padding the pockets of politicians like Mike DeWine instead of providing education opportunities to our children.

“Because public pressure and bad headlines have backed Mike DeWine into the smallest political corner, he has only now felt it important to recover millions of stolen taxpayer dollars. When Ohio officials were fraudulently changing letter grades to get ECOT more t

 
 
Bill would outlaw payoffs like ECOT's half-million dollar employee secrecy pacts
August 21, 2018

As questions surrounding the appropriate use of non-disclosure agreements arise for government employees, Ohio too has seen the use of these unique secrecy contracts by the now-defunct, taxpayer-funded online charter school ECOT, which spent over half-a-million dollars to buy former employees’ silence against making statements that would be critical of the school or it’s for-profit management companies.

 

The contracts also prevent former ECOT employees from bringing legal action against the online charter or its founder, Bill Lager.

State Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) said the ECOT hush money, and reports that it attempted to silence a former employee-turned-whistleblower with a similar contract and cash pay-out, pushed her to draft legislation to ban the practice in Ohio.

 
 

In the wake of last week’s storm floods of Boardman-area residents’ homes, State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) and other local elected officials are urging Boardman Township Trustee Tom Costello to quickly share the township’s flood-mitigation plan and to work with state officials to address local safety and health issues, much like Austintown and Poland did when faced with similar issues.

“When families and citizens experience the financial and physical devastation that flooding brings, they need serious solutions that prioritize their safety and well-being,” said Boccieri. “I stand ready to assist local officials who need to establish a comprehensive plan immediately to ensure this never happens again.”

 
 

State Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) responded to today’s Ohio Department of Medicaid decision to fire the state’s pharmacy middlemen after reading an advance copy of Auditor Dave Yost’s report on the deceptive healthcare pricing scheme that cost Ohio taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Yost’s report is expected to be made publicly available tomorrow.

“Today’s decision to fire cheating big-pharma middlemen is proof positive of what many of us have been saying all along: big healthcare corporations have been ripping off Ohio consumers by hundreds of millions of dollars to line their own pockets and boost their own bottom line,” said West. “This decision is a win for consumers and small independent pharmacies alike, but we shouldn’t wait until January 1 to stop this rip off.”

 
 
Civil Rights Commission complaint takes on discriminatory Statehouse security policies
August 13, 2018

State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) is optimistic that four agencies will sit down by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission’s (OCRC) Aug. 16 mediation deadline to address racial profiling and discrimination by State Highway Patrol and private guards at the security checkpoints for the Riffe Tower and the Statehouse.

"Now that the State Highway Patrol’s self-review is completed, the next step is to sit down with all parties for mediation,” said Sykes. “I'm keeping an open mind and remain hopeful that we can come together to ensure everyone is treated equally at their state capitol.”

Sykes said that if some parties aren’t willing to meet OCRC’s mediation deadline, she will rely on the outcome of the commission’s independent investigation to determine a final resolution.

 
 
Say effort will hold those in power accountable to Ohio taxpayers
August 9, 2018

State Reps. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) and Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today announced they will introduce new whistleblower reforms for employees who come forward to report wrongdoing and corruption to authorities. The announcement follows explosive, far-reaching corruption cases that have rocked state government over the past year.

“When someone blows the whistle on corruption in state government, it’s our duty to listen, hold officials accountable and ensure the little guy is protected,” said Cera. “In some ways, we’ve become numb to the scandals and cover-ups because those who try to do the right thing are too often silenced—and that needs to change.”

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.

“This past year has seen one scandal after another, with high-ranking state officials looking the other way while taxpayer dollars were wasted and used to line the pockets of ECOT mastermind Bill Lager. They must be held accountable to Ohio taxpayers,” said Clyde. “By protecting those who report wrongdoing, we can begin to take on the culture of corruption that has plagued state government for too long. It’s time for a change.”

 
 
Failed charter school system designed to fund campaigns, not educate children
August 8, 2018

After the Ohio Supreme Court today ruled the online charter school ECOT violated state law by fraudulently boosting student attendance records to cheat taxpayers of some $80 million, state Rep. Teresa Fedor says the next step is holding the operators and founder criminally accountable.

“Today’s ruling brings us one step closer to fully understanding the extent of this tangled web of political payoffs and taxpayer fraud,” said Fedor. “Elected officials at the highest level of power turned a blind eye to this criminal empire while they took huge sums of campaign cash. Obviously, federal authorities now have an even more important role in independently determining the scope of corruption and malfeasance – not only within the school, but within state government.”

Three years after it was exposed that Gov. John Kasich’s handpicked charter-czar David Hansen, husband of Kasich’s chief of staff, was illegally changing charter school grades to allow failing charter schools like ECOT to draw down on more taxpayer funding, little has happened at the Republican-controlled Statehouse to crack down, once and for all, on Ohio’s largely unregulated charter school industry.

“There is no doubt that the corrupt charter school system in Ohio was designed, not to help our children prepare for their future, but to help pad Republican campaign coffers,” Fedor added. “Today’s ruling reiterates what Bill Lager allegedly said, this whole scheme ‘isn’t about the children.’”

 
 
Accurate voting info essential to fair and secure elections
August 6, 2018

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today issued a statement commemorating the 53rd anniversary of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 and putting out information on frequently asked voting questions in advance of tomorrow’s August 7 special congressional election in central Ohio.