There was a surprising development in the progress of the public-private entity JobsOhio - one of Gov. John Kasich's key programs. But as Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports, the administration is saying it's not as shocking as it might seem.
The state’s private non-profit economic development agency JobsOhio was created last year, but it has yet to hit a critical milestone – the transfer of the state’s liquor profits in a 25 year, $1.4 billion deal. That deal has finally been worked out, and in a conference call with reporters, JobsOhio president Mark Kvamme he and state budget director Tim Keen have signed it. Only one more signature was needed.
MK: However, director of commerce David Goodman declined to sign the agreement.
And Kvamme said that means one state agency will go to court against another.
MK:As a result of his decision, JobsOhio has filed a mandamus action with the Ohio Supreme Court asking it to compel Director Goodman to sign the agreement.
And seemingly amazingly, Goodman was also on the conference call – to explain why he refused to sign.
DG: When Gov. Kasich selected me for this position, I took an oath to uphold the constitution of the state of Ohio. Constitutional concerns have been raised regarding the creation of JobsOhio and the details of this transaction.
However, Goodman said he’s confident that JobsOhio is constitutional. But this isn’t a story of a state official going rogue. JobsOhio managing director John Minor said it’s a chance for the administration to ask the Ohio Supreme Court whether the program stands up to constitutional scrutiny.
DG: Basically, this is a legal avenue that we have decided to utilize in order to give the court an opportunity to review the merits of the legal issues.
So this order could force the court to rule on the issue of constitutionality. But there’s already a lawsuit challenging that – filed by the Democrat and union backed group Progress Ohio. That suit has been tossed from a county court and an appeals court on the grounds that Progress Ohio has no standing to sue over the constitutionality of JobsOhio. Brian Rothenberg is the executive director of Progress Ohio.
BR: You know, these are the same people that didn’t want any court to rule on the constitutionality of it, so it kind of sounds like forum-shopping because they know the parties and makeup of the court.”
Goodman said on the conference call that he agrees with the lower courts in that Progress Ohio has standing, so he doesn’t think that suit will go forward in the Ohio Supreme Court. But there’s another party involved in the Progress Ohio suit. The conservative 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is helping Progress Ohio with its argument on standing, but also has concerns about the constitutionality of JobsOhio. Maurice Thompson is the executive director of the 1851 Center, and he casts doubt on the state’s lawsuit.
MT: This is sham litigation for the purpose of getting the Supreme Court to declare JobsOhio constitutional, and the case really should be thrown out – it doesn’t belong in the Ohio Supreme Court. It’s very difficult to go directly to the Ohio Supreme Court on anything other than an elections case.
While Rothenberg says he’d welcome the court’s decision on whether JobsOhio is constitutional, he also worries that if the court hears this action from JobsOhio against the commerce director, it won’t decide if Progress Ohio has standing to sue over JobsOhio, which he says needs to be decided.