Forty percent of Ohio cities fail on open records test

State integrity in the news for Ohio, from the Springfield News-Sun

A majority of Ohio cities promptly responded to a public records request from the state auditor’s office, but more than 40 percent did not fulfill the request in the “reasonable amount of time” given.The Auditor of State’s office requested payroll records for 247 cities in Ohio in October. Cities were asked to provide the information electronically or in paper format within 10 days, which Auditor Dave Yost considered a more than reasonable amount of time.

Yost released the results Monday to celebrate Sunshine Week, a national effort advocating open government and freedom of information. The auditor’s office is not seeking any legal action against any of the cities, rather the exercise was intended to evaluate the process at the city level.

“These are the public’s documents,” Yost said. “The government belongs to the people. The documents belong to the people.”

Read the rest of the story at the Springfield News-Sun.

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Settlement would force Arkansas legislators to document expenses

State integrity in the news for Arkansas, from the Arkansas News Bureau:

A hearing is set for next month to discuss a proposed legal settlement that would require legislators to strictly document claims for mileage and expense reimbursements.

The lawsuit named two legislators, Rep. Ann Clemmer, R-Benton, and Sen. Jerry Taylor, D-Pine Bluff, as defendants, along with the state auditor, state treasurer and officials of the House and Senate, who disburse expense payments for legislators. The suit alleged both Clemmer and Taylor claimed expenses without submitting proper documentation. Between January 2009 and August of 2011, Clemmer collected $70,500 and between January 2007 and August 2011 Taylor collected $129,633.

Read the rest of the story at the Arkansas News Bureau.

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Former Massachusetts senator accused of trying to lower brother's dental bill

State integrity in the news for Massachusetts, from the Sun Chronicle:

Former state Sen. Cheryl Jacques is being accused by the state Ethics Commission of using her state position as an administrative law judge to pressure a dental office to reduce her brother-in-law's dentist bill. The commission said conflict of interest laws prohibit state employees from using their positions to seek unwarranted privileges.

Jacques, who represented the Attleboro area when she was in the Legislature, is alleged to have threatened to report the dental office to the state Attorney General's Office and get it removed as a provider from the insurance company.

Read the rest of the story at the Sun Chronicle.

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Scandals cause shake-up in Arizona legislature

Corruption news for Arizona, from ABC 15:

As if there just hasn’t been enough scandal at the Arizona Legislature this year, political observers will get a fresh look this week at two salacious stories that will begin to further unfold. This session has had its share of scandal. In January, Peoria Republican Scott Bundgaard resigned from the Senate, moments before he was scheduled to testify in an ethics trial to determine whether he should be punished for a fight he got into with his ex-girlfriend last year.

So far, allegations of ethical and criminal misconduct have forced two members from the Legislature – Bundgaard and Richard Miranda – and Daniel Patterson could be the third. Does anyone remember when elections were the main cause of turnover at the Legislature?

Read the rest of the story at ABC 15.

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Wisconsin lagging on promises of transparency in spending

Corruption news for Wisconsin, from the Green Bay Press Gazzette:

Wisconsin residents have waited a long time to get a good look at the state's checkbook.They're going to be waiting longer.

Nearly six years after legislators passed a law aimed at increasing transparency of government spending by posting contract information online, the effort remains flawed. And while the state last year set a new, more ambitious goal, that project also is unfinished, even as other states post similar information for their residents.

Read the rest of the story at the Green Bay Press Gazzette.

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Romney conducted official Massachusetts business using private email account

Corruption news for Massachusetts, from the Huffington Post:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and some of his top aides used private email accounts to conduct state business at times when Romney was governor of Massachusetts, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. The communications were legal, even though Romney's own administration warned state agencies against the practice due to cyber security concerns.

The state archives in Massachusetts – which learned about Romney's emails from the AP – now says the private emails should have invoked rules about preserving copies of state records. Private email accounts used by public officials to perform their public jobs are effectively off limits to review by citizens, watchdog groups, political opponents and news organizations because they're often used secretly.

Read the rest of the story at the Huffington Post.

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New York legislator allegedly made deal for son's job

Corruption news for New York, from the Press and Sun Bulletin:

A key witness in a federal corruption trial involving three Westchester County political figures has accused Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, of offering increased business to his politically-connected law firm in exchange for a high-paying job for his son, Matthew Libous. In recent testimony, former attorney Anthony Mangone said Libous (pictured, right) called his law firm and asked that they hire his son.

Mangone testified Thursday that Matthew Libous was hired as an associate with a $50,000 salary after the senator made a promise of increased referrals to the firm. Soon, the senator called back and asked the salary to be raised to $100,000, Mangone testified.

Read the rest of the story at the Press and Sun Bulletin.


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Editorial: Kansas deserves nonpartisan Secretary of State

Corruption news for Kansas, from the Lawrence Journal World:

As the Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach’s most important job is to oversee elections in the state. To a greater extent than any other elected state official, that requires secretaries of state to distance themselves from partisan involvements. Establishing that distance apparently is difficult for Kobach, who has continued to be involved in issues and dealings that raise questions about his political impartiality.

He continues his work — in his “spare time,” he claims — on illegal immigration issues around the country. He also raised some eyebrows when he agreed to be the honorary chairman of a Republican candidate’s campaign for the Kansas Senate. Now, Kobach has formed his own political action committee, called the Prairie Fire PAC. 

Read the rest of the story at the Lawrence Journal World.

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Kentucky legislature moves to restrict transparency in spending

Corruption news for Kentucky, from the Lexington Herald-Leader:

A House panel on Thursday voted to change the Kentucky Open Records Act to make private the records of some organizations doing business with government.Presently, any organization that gets at least 25 percent of its revenue from local or state government must share some records under the act, which is meant to bring transparency to public spending.

But House Bill 496, which proceeds to the full House, would exempt from the 25 percent requirement any money awarded to organizations through a competitive and public procurement process.

Read the rest of the story at the Lexington Herald-Leader.

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich accused of offering secret deal to GOP operative

Corruption news for Ohio, from the Columbus Dispatch:

The chairman of the Portage County Republican Party says that allies of Gov. John Kasich offered him special influence over gubernatorial appointments if he agreed not to run for the state GOP central committee, which Kasich (pictured, right) has been trying to take over. Andrew Manning sent a notarized affidavit to state and federal law-enforcement officers yesterday, asking them to investigate whether laws were broken in the alleged effort to get him to drop out of the committee race.

Manning provided a copy of the sworn statement to The Dispatch and said in an interview that he felt uncomfortable with what he perceived as the offer of a quid pro quo and “relentless” pressure from friends of Kasich.

Read the rest of the story at the Columbus Dispatch.

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