OUR VIEW: JobsOhio ruling closes the door; Supreme Court ruling closes door on public records access

Supreme Court ruling closes door on public records access

Published:

The Ohio Supreme Court has closed the door on JobsOhio, the non-profit entity created by Gov. John Kasich to oversee state economic development efforts.

The court issued a two-sentence judgment entry last week that dismissed a complaint requesting JobsOhio to fulfill a public records request. The decision affirmed JobsOhio's exemption from public records access, noting its status a private entity.

The ruling is in line with the rationale that led to the creation of JobsOhio. As a private, non-profit entity working closely with state agencies, it can conduct its business behind closed doors. Businesses considering relocating to Ohio or expanding their operations here can do so without public scrutiny, the tradeoff being jobs for Ohio vs. transparency in government.

The fact remains, however, that Jobs Ohio receives state money -- liquor revenues are among its funding sources ­-- and Ohioans have a right to know how the agency is using it. While JobsOhio is required to conduct a handful of public meetings and files disclosure documents about incentives it has awarded for economic development, the court's decision basically renders its operations off-limits to the public.

The Supreme Court has heard arguments in a challenge to JobsOhio brought by an advocacy group that contends it is unconstitutional because the state is prohibited from establishing private enterprises. A similar argument was made -- and ultimately dismissed -- in the bid for public records access.

There is no question that economic development is important, but not so important that the agency overseeing it is granted a blank check on how it operates. Secrecy in government raises the potential for abuse. Closing the doors and closing the records on decisions and decision-making is risky business.

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