Nearly half of the Ohio Ethics Commission’s caseload this year dealt with concerns about conflict of interest by public officials, but many of those under scrutiny are exempt from publicly disclosing their personal business interests, a Dayton Daily News investigation found.
Charter schools and township trustees are exempt from filing financial disclosure forms, though they accounted for 24 percent of the 185 cases handled by the ethics commission this year, according to state records obtained by the Daily News.
“I think that would make sense if you apply one standard, you apply it across the board,” said state Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering.
Lehner has twice tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation applying the same disclosure rules to townships that apply to cities. When presented with the newspaper’s findings, she said charter schools should be included as well.
Ohio Ethics Commission Director Paul Nick also supports expanding the requirement. It would identify potential conflicts of interest, serve a flag to the school or township and alert the public, he said. The filing fees — which range from $30 to $95 depending on the office — contribute 31 percent of the Ethics Commission’s $2.2 million budget.
But groups representing townships and charter schools say the requirements would be both unnecessary and intrusive, possibly dissuading people from holding office. “People are going to say it’s not worth it, if I have to disclose who I owe money to, who owes me money, who holds my mortgage, what my investments are,” said Matt DeTemple, director of the Ohio Townships Association.
The four page ethics form includes questions about the source of the officials’ income, businesses owned, names of family members, gifts received and debts owed to and by the official. Not all ethics forms are public. State employees and some boards submit confidential ethics forms that are kept on file and reviewed only by the Ethics Commission.