Six of nine members of the JobsOhio board of directors have direct financial ties to companies that have received tax credits and other assistance from state government or JobsOhio since Gov. John Kasich took office in 2011, public records show.
The directors are employed by, sit on the board of or hold stock in companies that have received assistance from either the state of Ohio or JobsOhio, the newly created non-profit established by the Kasich’s administration. JobsOhio also assisted two subsidiaries of Worthington Industries, a Columbus-based company that has contributed heavily to Kasich and where he served as a director between 2001 and 2010.
JobsOhio spokeswoman Laura Jones said the state assistance to the companies came before JobsOhio began operating in July 2011. Still, JobsOhio documents list some of these companies as getting assistance from the non-profit.
“We have a conflict of interest policy that we have in place that we utilize here at JobsOhio,” Jones said. “If there is a conflict, it’ll be brought to the attention (of the full board) and policy will be followed on how to go forward with that.”
Progress Ohio Executive Director Brian Rothenberg, a frequent critic of JobsOhio, said better transparency would result in more taxpayer protections.
“This smacks of self-dealing in a country club atmosphere of doling out the public’s money,” he said.
Until Kasich took office, the Ohio Department of Development managed the state’s economic development and job creation efforts. Kasich argued that the state needed to be more nimble and rely on experts with business experience to get better results.
With cooperation from the General Assembly, he replaced the department with the Development Services Agency, created JobsOhio and funded the new non-profit with bond proceeds, state money and private donations. Eight of the board members are appointed by Kasich; the board then appointed the chief investment officer, John Minor, who is the ninth director.
JobsOhio is in charge of marketing the state as a good place to do business 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 creating or retaining 75,612 jobs and invest $5.8 billion in the state. The group is exempt from state audits, public records laws and some ethics laws.