COLUMBUS – Today, the Ohio Democratic Party filed suit in the Ohio Supreme Court against State Treasurer Josh Mandel over his refusal to comply with his legal obligation to provide copies of requested public records for nearly two months regarding his taxpayer-funded tele-town halls and his office’s involvement to assist corrupt businessman and Mandel donor Benjamin Suarez.
At issue in the case is a July 18th, 2014 public records request in which the Ohio Democratic Party made an official request to Treasurer Mandel’s office for the following:
- A copy of any and all documents produced from March 1, 2014 until present to Laura Bischoff, a reporter for the Dayton Daily News, in response to any public records request she filed regarding tele-town halls.
- A copy of any and all executed contracts for services, not approved by the State Controlling Board (such as contracts not statutorily requiring approval by the Controlling Board), related to telephone town halls with constituents on behalf of the Treasurer’s Office for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014.
- A copy of all request for bids or proposals and all received bids or proposals for services related to telephone town halls with constituents on behalf of the Treasurer’s Office for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014.
- A copy of any and all correspondences, whether written or electronic, between Scott Guthrie and Eric Synenberg from February 2011 until August 2011 concerning either Benjamin Suarez or Suarez Corporation Industries (a.k.a. “SCI”).
- In the event your office claims that any document requested has since been destroyed before receipt of this request, please provide me with a copy of the appropriate Certificate of Records Disposal for such records.
To date, not only has Josh Mandel’s office failed to provide the documents, but his office has failed to even acknowledge receipt of the requests despite being addressed to Mandel’s Deputy Treasurer Seth Metcalf. This after a 3-month publicity blitz touting his record on transparency and accessibility.
With regard to the lawsuit filed, Chairman Chris Redfern released the following statement:
“Josh Mandel has a well-documented history of stonewalling public records requests for years, and avoids any and every question about his cozy relationship and willingness to help his convicted donor Benjamin Suarez. Mandel’s unwillingness to provide any transparency or accountability of his office is as unconscionable as it is hypocritical. It is Mandel’s duty to the taxpayers of Ohio to release the records immediately so Ohioans can find out how Josh has used tax dollars to promote himself in an election year and how his office went to bat for Suarez.”
Mandel brags about transparency and accessibility. In an interview with the Northeast Ohio Media Group, Josh Mandel was asked how he is not hypocritical for politicizing his office after criticizing his predecessor for the same problem. He responded, “In our administration, first and foremost, we try to be accessible to constituents. One of my pet peeves is when you see people running for public office campaign on being accessible and then when they get in there, oftentimes they are not open to the people. I’ve tried to be as accessible as possible to my constituents.” [Source: Northeast Ohio Media Group(8/25/2014), “Josh Mandel talks about cleaning up after Kevin Boyce and connecting with the black community but remains tight-lipped on Ben Suarez: Q&A”]
In the same interview, Mandel declines to comment on his involvement with Benjamin Suarez. When asked about comments his aides made suggesting his testimony would be “damaging” to the defense had he been called to the stand, Mandel said, “I’m not going to comment on something that never happened.” [Source: Northeast Ohio Media Group (8/25/2014), “Josh Mandel talks about cleaning up after Kevin Boyce and connecting with the black community but remains tight-lipped on Ben Suarez: Q&A”]
Mandel ignored multiple public record requests for over a year to release resumes of staffers he hired upon taking office. The Ohio Democratic Party sent nine record requests over 14-months requesting Mandel produce resumes of the people he hired. [Source: Ohio Democratic Party Press Release (6/12/2012), “Ohio Democratic Party Files 9th Public Records Request For Treasurer’s Office Staff Resumes Following Josh Mandel’s 14-Month Refusal To Fully Disclose Them.”]
Mandel then again refused to produce the same records to another group requesting his staffers’ resumes. After ignoring the requests for months, American Bridge reported that it, too, had received no records or even an acknowledgement of receipt of a record request from Mandel’s office for months. Frustrated by Mandel’s lack of response, the group threaten to sue Mandel for failure to comply with Ohio’s public record laws. [Source: American Bridge PAC Press Release (8/23/2012), “Josh Mandel Refusing to Comply with Ohio Open Records Law.”]