Ohio

Kasich Staffers Cleared on Charges of Political Activity on State Time

Campaigns

Three employees of Governor John Kasich were cleared of allegations they conducted political activity on taxpayer time in a November 20 report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Kevin DeWine, a former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party (ORP) who was ousted in early 2012 by the governor and his allies, suggested in a 2011 television interview that Kasich’s staff had been assisting ORP central committee candidates while being paid by the state.

After conducting interviews with Kasich staffers Sherri Carbo, Nicholas Gatz, and Nicole Kostura and making nearly a dozen attempts to interview DeWine, the OIG’s office reported that it found “no reasonable cause to believe wrongful acts or omissions occurred in these instances.”

“The investigation did not find evidence the Ohio Governor’s Office regional liaisons, Sherri Carbo, Nicholas Gatz and Nicole Kostura engaged in political activity during work hours using state resources,” the OIG report concluded.

DeWine and his supporters alleged that Carbo, Gatz, and Kostura were instructed by former Kasich employee David Luketic to collect signatures and submit petitions on behalf of three ORP Central Committee candidates. OIG reported that Luketic was on unpaid leave from the governor’s office during the time in question, and found no evidence that Carbo, Gatz, or Kostura worked for Kasich-backed candidates on state time or using state resources.

During a December 2011 appearance on Sunday morning talk show Capitol Square, DeWine told Ohio News Network reporter Jim Heath, ”you have the governor’s – in some instances employees – but certainly the folks surrounding the governor, going after incumbent members of the committee who, for no fault of their own, they have just simply poured their blood, sweat and tears into helping get this guy elected.”

Writing for The Columbus Dispatch, Heath reported that Carbo, Gatz, and Kostura had delivered ORP Central Committee candidate petitions “during weekday work hours,” sparking the OIG investigation.

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols denied allegations that any of the governor’s staff had conducted political activity on state time, claiming DeWine’s charges were baseless. “You mind the clock when you are on taxpayer time,” Nichols said, adding that “the staff is instructed accordingly” regarding the separation of partisan political work in a government office, as required by Ohio Revised Code Section 124.57.

DeWine, who was unanimously reelected as ORP chairman in 2011, initially claimed victory following the March 2012 election of new central committee members. After working for months to stack the committee with opponents of DeWine, Kasich’s allies also claimed success. DeWine resigned soon after.

The widely-held belief in Columbus is that Kasich and DeWine’s feud can be traced to DeWine’s support for the eventual gubernatorial candidacy of Secretary of State Jon Husted. Governor Kasich asked DeWine to step down as ORP chair following the November 2010 Republican sweep, and their power struggle became more public in the year following DeWine’s refusal to do so.