Ohioans deserve to know that those in statewide office are not influenced by third parties in a way that encourages those officials to put their own interests before those of citizens. A bill proposed by Democratic state lawmakers that would bar statewide office holders from receiving compensation for private employment while in elected office makes sense — though, as always , the devil will be in the details.
“Corruption is expensive. When irresponsible politicians abuse their power to line their own pockets, it is the people of Ohio who pay the ultimate price,” Rep. Mary Lightbody, D-Westerville, told WOUB in Columbus.
The idea was born after Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted received a paid position on the board of Heartland Bank Corp. Although legal, the decision nevertheless raised some concerns.
Governor Mike DeWine is paid more than $159,000 a year. Husted earns nearly $110,000. State Attorney General Dave Yost earns the same salary as Husted. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose earns just over $60,500 a year. Estimates vary, but the consensus is that the average annual salary in Ohio is around $46,000.
Ohio’s code was written to ensure that those who hold offices across the state are compensated in a way that helps them avoid the need for other sources of income.
To be sure, Husted insists his new paid position doesn’t create conflict; and that it will, in fact, help him do his job better.
Nevertheless, this could be frowned upon and sow doubt in the minds of taxpayers.
“It is extremely important that we send a strong message and it should be a bipartisan message that ethics, integrity and taxpayers’ money are sacrosanct and that we place them above everything else,” Rep. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, told WOUB.
In effect. But if lawmakers try to do so, they need to make sure they’re not targeting anyone; and that the law is drafted with extreme clarity. For example, would a position such as the one Husted held be acceptable if he was not paid for it?
If they want to try to avoid the appearance of corruption, they had better get it right.