Speaking to reporters Tuesday at the downtown Columbus headquarters of the Ohio Democratic Party, David Pepper, Democratic Nominee for Ohio Attorney General, came down hard on incumbent Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine for overseeing a culture of pay-to-play politics, the likes of which has not been seen since the second term of Gov. Robert Taft, when Ohio voters rebelled at the many pay-to-play scandals during his administration that became front page news, giving Ohio voters good reason to vote Democrats into all but one statewide office in 2006.
The Dayton Daily News published an article based on public records recently, that revealed that Mike DeWine has taken $1.36 million from attorneys and vendors who receive contracts for debt collection work from his office, with firms contributing $500,000 around the time their proposals were being considered. The article also showed that DeWine, elected in 2010 along with Gov. Kasich, reviewed bids with his campaign fundraiser at the time the bids were under consideration.
Mr. Pepper, a former Hamilton County Commissioner, told reporters this morning that a 2012 bid process was clearly rigged. Mr. DeWine gave business to a company formed only two days before, which coincidentally was founded by a major donor with no prior collections experience, he said, with enlarged versions of pertinent public records displayed behind him, including a score sheet that were altered in a way that allowed the unqualified bidder to secure work. Meanwhile, collections have decreased each of the past two years after ten straight years of growth, Pepper noted.
“The process for selecting vendors for important state work has become corrupted by campaign contributions and rigged bid processes, and it must stop,” Pepper said. “With my reforms in place, Ohioans can finally have faith that millions of dollars worth of state contracts are being awarded based on merit, not money.”
Following his presentation today—which can be found here, courtesy of OhioNewsBureau and Plunderbund—Pepper laid out his five-point plan to reform the selection process for collections vendors and special counsel.
In it he calls for instituting transparent, merit-based standards for selecting special counsel and collections vendors, which will ensure the best return for taxpayers. Moreover, Pepper will bar AG staff involved with selections from meeting or discussing bids with lobbyists in the period around when bids are under consideration. If elected this November, Pepper will bring in collections professionals to oversee the process to ensure that bidders are judged based on performance, not politics. The final component to his remedy is to institute a fundraising blackout period for bidders within two months before and after the bidding and selection process.
Democrats have seized on the Dayton-area charter schools scandals, which every Republican officeholder from Gov. Kasich to AG Dewine has curiously decided to not comment or act on, with the exception of Auditor David Yost who said he’ll start an investigation into the complaints four teachers at Horizon charter schools brought to the attention of the Ohio Board of Education last week. In a press conference yesterday, Rep. John Patrick Carney, the endorsed Democrat running to win the Office of Auditor this year, confronted Yost on ignoring the complaints until he and others questioned why nothing was being done.
In light of the allegations brought public by the teachers, that a chain of Ohio charter schools allowed sexual misconduct, racist disciplinary practices, and poor safety conditions to go unchecked for several years, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald will join State Rep. candidate Michele Lepore-Hagan in Youngstown, Ohio, to call for increased state oversight of for-profit charter schools. Concept Schools, which operates the schools in question, has a school in Youngstown as well as in Dayton, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Lorain, and Springfield.
Ed FitzGerald first announced his intention to reform Governor Kasich’s policy on for-profit charters at the Ohio Education Association Convention in early May. FitzGerald’s campaign notes that Ohio’s for-profit charter schools, which have been pushed, supported and funded by Gov. Kasich, receive nearly $900 million in annual state funding, but are not required to meet many if any of the same standards public schools must abide by.
Last Friday, FitzGerald, a former FBI special agent and assistant county prosecutor, called for the resignation of Ohio Department of Education Superintendent Dr. Ross after news reports that the teachers who reported the abuse were facing possible sanctions from the state.
Video of Pepper’s announcement is included below.