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No free pass for abuse of taxpayer funds

Mid-Ohio Valley residents on the West Virginia side of the Ohio River will find something familiar in the tale of illegal, extravagant and unnecessary spending at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources during former Gov. John Kasich’s administration. It echoes the kind of above-the-law arrogance and incompetence that led to an upheaval of the entire West Virginia Supreme Court a while back.

Ohio Inspector General Randall J. Meyer recently finished his report on an investigation that began with tips in October 2018 about the state carpentry shop at Scioto Trail State Park near Chillicothe. Meyer’s report notes the shop did not follow purchasing requirement to buy two laser engravers that cost taxpayers $38,000 to personalize items.

One carpentry employee said he made approximately 2,000 $27 walking sticks that were distributed for free to lawmakers, Kasich, state employees and some others. State park cabin shells costing $10,000 were so poorly made that they required a lot of reworking; and one employee said it would have been cheaper to buy pre-made kits.

But here’s the head-shaker. A retired state carpentry employee was asked to come back to work in 2013 by now-retired deputy director and state forester Robert Boyles for what was called a “little project” that took almost a year. A handmade 15×24 foot U-shaped walnut conference table isn’t exactly a “little project,” and its total cost has not been calculated. What we do know is that the 1.2 ton table could only be installed with the removal of windows from DNR headquarters and a crane had to hoist it in. The installation alone cost $5,381.

By the way, state law does not permit DNR to make items for use in administrative buildings.

Meyer’s report calls the abuse of taxpayer resources “extravagant and grandiose,” but he did not refer his report for review by prosecutors.

Perhaps he should reconsider doing so. If one agency gets the idea that they will get nothing but a slap on the wrist for thumbing their noses at taxpayers and being such poor stewards of OUR money, others will follow their lead. There’s enough of it going on in Columbus anyway without the bureaucrats being reinforced in their belief that they will get a free pass.

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