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JobsOhio says it is transparent

JobsOhio on Friday claimed that it faces as many, if not more, ethics and transparency safeguards as any state agency.

Meeting at the Wright Brothers Institute, JobsOhio staff and board members reviewed a checklist of accountability measures: financial audits, a public contract with the state, ethics policies and training, confidential financial disclosure statements, IRS tax returns and quarterly reports.

JobsOhio General Counsel Don Grubbs noted that JobsOhio has to file IRS 990 forms, comply with state Development Services Agency oversight and report quarterly results – requirements state agencies don’t have to follow.

Critics of the nonprofit, private agency argue that JobsOhio relies on public money so it should be more transparent and accountable to taxpayers. They have their own checklist of how JobsOhio is too secretive: it is not subject to Ohio public records laws, annual financial disclosures filed with the Ohio Ethics Commission are confidential, the state auditor is prohibited from auditing the nonprofit and the agency is not subject to all state ethics laws.

The Dayton Daily News reported in July that six of nine JobsOhio board members have direct financial ties to companies that have received tax breaks, grants, loans or other assistance from either the state or JobsOhio since Republican Gov. John Kasich took office in January 2011.

Friday was the first time the board had met publicly since that report made statewide news.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald has said he would make JobsOhio more transparent and subject it to stronger ethics rules to protect it against conflicts of interest and corruption.

Despite drawing scrutiny, the meeting Friday did not attract much public attention. Most of the attendees were JobsOhio and Dayton Development Coalition staffers. The Ohio Democratic Party sent a video tracker to collect footage and only the Daily News showed up for the meeting.

Kasich eliminated the state Department of Development, which had long managed Ohio’s job creation efforts, and replaced it with JobsOhio. Kasich argued that the state needed to be more nimble and turn to business leaders to get better results.

JobsOhio is funded with bond proceeds backed by the state’s liquor profits, state money and private donations. JobsOhio is tasked with marketing Ohio and helping arrange loans, grants and tax breaks for companies creating jobs.

JobsOhio said in its 2012 annual report that JobsOhio and its partners helped 277 companies that committed to create or retain 75,612 jobs and invest $5.8 billion in the state. In its most recent report covering the second quarter of 2013, JobsOhio says it worked with 69 employers that promised to create or retain 36,647 jobs for Ohioans.

Unemployment numbers released Friday by the state show the jobless rate creeping up. Ohio’s unemployment rate for August was 7.3 percent, up from 7.2 percent in July, according to the state Department of Job and Family Services. The national rate for August was 7.3 percent.

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