Dayton mayor proposes plan to combat ‘culture of corruption’ in state government

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, in her bid to become Ohio governor, released a plan Tuesday that she says would dismantle the “culture of corruption” in state politics.

The four part plan includes:

  • Creating a new Public Accountability Commission to oversee the Ohio Inspector General’s Office and refer investigations to other state watchdog agencies. The commission’s first task would be assessing and recommending closure of loopholes to Ohio ethics law.
  • Increasing funding for watchdog agencies such as the Ohio Ethics Commission, which has seen stagnant funding amid a growing caseload.
  • Issuing an executive order prohibiting lobbying within two years of leaving office for people appointed to boards and commissions, disclosing reasons for non-competitive bids and adding ethics officers to every state agency.
  • Passing legislation, such as House Bill 306, to add transparency to campaign finance and close dark money loopholes.

“The biggest thing we are trying to do is we’re trying to take the power to investigate politicians out of the hands of the same politicians and give it back to the people,” Whaley said.

Whaley announced the plan on the steps of the Ohio statehouse, joined by state Rep. Willis Blackshear Jr., D-Dayton. Blackshear said that state lawmakers have shown little appetite to address these issues because many of them benefit from dark money and loopholes.

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“We need to hold our elected leaders accountable,” he said. “People in my community, the people I talk to when I’m on the ground, they have lost faith in our government because of the corruption they see. How can they believe the government works for them when they see so many political leaders who are just out for themselves?”

Whaley’s proposal follows a series of high-profile statewide scandals in recent years. This includes the recent indictments of the Ohio House speaker and others in what federal prosecutors call a $61 million bribery scheme linked to the nuclear energy bailout House Bill 6.

Whaley said the perception that Ohio leads the nation in political corruption puts pressure on lawmakers, who would have to approve the parts of her proposal that can’t be accomplished by executive order.

The Ohio Republican Party issued a statement Tuesday noting that an FBI agent in 2019 said there was a “culture of corruption in Dayton-area politics” when announcing a corruption probe that resulted in convictions of a former city councilmember, former state lawmaker and city employee.

ExploreVIDEO: Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley speaks about federal investigation

“While Nan Whaley is holding a press conference to launch cherry-picked partisan attacks, Republicans are focused on getting Ohioans back to work,” said Ohio Republican Party Executive Director Justin Bis.

“Instead of holding perfunctory press conferences, Mayor Whaley should work on fixing the ‘culture of corruption’ in Dayton’s City Hall.”

Whaley said that in the wake of the Dayton corruption probe, the city hired an independent firm to conduct an audit and revised city policy to increase oversight.

“Unlike (Ohio Gov.) Mike DeWine and this legislature we actually took action,” she said.

Whaley and other city leaders refused to release the full findings of the audit but in January released an executive summary saying city staff operated with too little oversight but there was no evidence of widespread impropriety.

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