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Who is targeting Dave Yost’s Sunshine Audits program?

Ohio Auditor Dave Yost

Ohio Auditor Dave Yost

On Tuesday, the Ohio House released their version of Ohio’s next biennial budget. Tucked into the budget was a provision that directly attacks the Sunshine Audits program started by Auditor Dave Yost.

What are Sunshine Audits?

Currently, if a citizen requests public information or records from a government agency in Ohio, and is denied those records, they have little recourse other than to pursue the matter in court. Since legal fees are expensive, this creates a bar to obtaining those records and often the government agency gets away with withholding the information.

Yes, the Attorney General has a mediation program that you can turn to. However, since the Attorney General necessarily represents the State, this program is only available for disputes with a local government. Even then, all the AG’s program does is provide mediation. The agency could refuse to participate, and then you’re back to taking them to court.

However, under Auditor Yost’s program, you can file a claim against both State and local agencies who have refused to provide records. The Auditor’s office can review the complaint and then determine whether the agency is operating according to Ohio’s public records laws. If they are violating the law, they will issue a report of non-compliance.

Yost’s program has the possibility of enforcing public records laws in Ohio, and could prevent the legal expenses necessary in many cases. It’s a great service to Ohio citizens at little expense.

Yost’s program under attack by fellow Republicans in the House

So, why then, was there a provision added to the budget bill that would bar the Auditor from conducting public records audits of state agencies?

Ohio Auditor Dave Yost is fighting mad over a move by fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives to prevent his office from ruling on complaints that state agencies are violating public-records laws.

A measure in the House GOP state budget rewrite introduced yesterday would kill the “Sunshine Audit” program that Yost unveiled last month during the national Sunshine Week observance of government transparency.

Yost has vowed to fight the measure to have it removed.

What’s unclear is exactly why it was added in the first place, and who is driving it.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger said the provision makes a clear delineation of the auditor’s duties. “It’s our prerogative that the legislature does so. We’re not really telling him. We’re clarifying, in my opinion.”

The Clarksville Republican added, “There’s a place for everything. I don’t know that that’s the place for the auditor.”

Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, chairman of the House Finance Committee, said there are already processes for people to settle public-records disputes.

“I think most people understand the auditor is going to audit public institutions on their finances,” he said. “Public records requests are a whole different animal.”

Those answers from Rosenberger and Smith don’t answer the “why” question at all. They simply say “Well, this is what we think.”

Who is really pushing to attack this program? Well, that’s unclear also.

I heard from a couple of state reps who told me they didn’t know about the provision until it was unveiled, and they assumed it must have been added by the House Leadership.

Yesterday, I asked Speaker Rosenberger on Twitter to explain. Ironically, he had just posted a tweet boasting about transparency in Ohio.

I have received no response.

Notice also that the provision only would prevent the Auditor from investigating state agencies. It still leaves audits of local agencies intact.

What do you think? If you agree with me that Auditor Yost’s program is a good one, and that we deserve to know why House leadership is attacking it, consider retweeting my questions above to the Speaker.

Something smells fishy here. Anyone with further information can send us an email. We always keep our sources confidential if they want to be.

Let’s hope that this provision is removed.

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Third Base Politics is an Ohio-centric conservative blog that has been featured at Hot Air, National Review, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and others.


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