On Fridays, when the Kasich Administration normally releases highlights from the week just ended, a story that broke the same day that was not among the stories that included announcements about company expansions or appointments to various boards and commissions was that the results of a public records request triggered the resignation of Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor’s chief of staff and her administrative assistant the day before. Following a request for public records showing "irregularities" in the time sheets of two top aides, Taylor asked for their resignation.
The request for records, undertaken on a tip to Plunderbund, an aggressive progressive news source, revealed the duo had illegally billed the state for hours they worked on the reelection campaign of Lt. Gov. Taylor and the top of the GOP ticket, Gov. John R. Kasich.
Their resignation yesterday will certainly stir the political kettle at a time when Gov. Kasich, whose last poll results performed by Quinnipiac showed him ahead of his Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald by as many as 15 points, would rather have voters see him and Taylor as trustworthy leaders.
Clearly ambitious and eager to jockey for president in two years, Gov. Kasich, a former long-time congressman turned Wall Street banker and Fox Channel political talk show host, has many chinks in his armor that FitzGerald, still little known outside his home turf of Cuyahoga County, can try to exploit over the next five months. A former FBI special agent, FitzGerald has already declared the Kasich Administration corrupt, pointing to the governor's secret nonprofit job group, JobsOhio, the hand-selected group of friends and allies who have billions to do deals with businesses but virtually no transparency to a public whose tax dollars its uses through bond sales backed by liquor agency profits, as proof their something rotten in Columbus.
Based on documents supplied by Plunderbund, the AP reported that working hours and parking records of Johnson and Brandt did not match. There were days when both women reported work hours either before entering or after leaving the garage, Ann Sanner of the AP wrote.
Lt. Gov. Taylor's office, according to her spokesman Chris Brock, took notice when Pludnerbunds's record request came to them back in April. The AP reports that the matter has been referred to the Ohio Inspector General, a Kasich appointee, and the State Highway Patrol, which also falls under the umbrella of the Kasich Administration.
Ohio IG Randy Meyer has himself come under criticism for sloughing off a thorough report on GOP corrupt activities related to the pay-to-play episode memorialized as "Coingate," involving a big GOP donor and various state officials, especially the Bureau of Workers Compensation. Myers has been anything but neutral when it comes to Gov. Kasich and his Administration, as reports point out. He has come under fire for covering up for the Kasich Administration. He has likewise taken hits for finding that Gov. Kasich's School Superintendent, Stan Heffner, did something wrong but decided not to refer the matter to the county prosecuting attorney.
Lt. Gov. Taylor's statement issued Friday, says the irregularities disappointed her. "As a working mom, I know it's hard to juggle both family and a job so I've tried to be supportive of my own staff as they juggle those demands." Johnson has been given some flexibility to work from home when needed after she had a baby in 2011, Brock said.
"Unfortunately, the flexibility I've tried to show the chief of staff of my personal office hasn't be appropriately respected and the workings of the office have suffered," said Taylor, a former state auditor and Member of the Ohio House of Representatives. Taylor claimed in her letter that "it appears that ... both Ms. Johnson and Ms. Brandt claimed more hours away from the Riffe Center than I anticipated." Public payroll records show Johnson earned $125,094 in 2013, while Brandt earned $58,349 in 2013.
Brandt said in her letter of resignation that there was a "hostile work environment." Plunderbund's record request covered time sheets for the employees for this year and also key card information that detailed in and out access in offices and a parking garage. Republicans have attacked FitzGerald for not disclosing his key card information, alleging he is working on his campaign while at work, which is exactly what these records show Johnson and Brandt did. Questions will arise that if Johnson and Brandt, not to underlings but one a chief of staff and the other a trusted assistant, are doing this, are other Kasich Administration staffers doing the same?
In previous campaigns since his election in 2010, Kasich staffers have left the fold of state government to work on campaigns for statewide issues, like the referendum on SB 5, a collective bargaining bill issue that Ohio voters rejected at the ballot box in 2011. A regular Kasich communicator has moved from the governor's staff to his reelection campaign.