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Ohio wants funding for anti-corruption training and quick reporting

Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio Auditor Keith Faber speaks to reporters, as Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) listens.

Over the last four years, 100 public officials have been prosecuted by the state of Ohio for fraud and corruption. That’s led to more than $5 million paid in restitution and more than $18 million in money that should be recovered.

But Ohio’s auditor said the state could do more.

The officer of Republican Auditor Keith Faber often starts the process of catching fraud and abuse in local or state government or nonprofits with tips via email, phone calls or from their app – from other officials or from the public.

“Almost everybody gets caught,” Faber said. “We want to catch people who are lying, stealing and cheating earlier. We want to make it more transparent. And we want to make it more difficult that people take a crack at taxpayer money.”

Faber said he asked for more money in the state budget for investigations and cyberfraud training, but he’d also like to add another investigator, some call screeners and tech experts. He also wants money to promote ways the public can report concerns about suspicious actions.

Faber is also pushing for a bill requiring more fraud-spotting training for public officials. That bill will be sponsored by Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), who said it’s still in draft form so there aren’t many specifics.

Faber said he had initially been working with Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova), who was in line to be the next House speaker, but after Merrin's surprise defeat by now-House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), he opted to start his proposal with Schaffer in the Senate.

Schaffer, a third-term Republican, said the bill is in the drafting stages, and may yet be incorporated into the two-year state operating budget — where GOP Gov. Mike DeWine’s plan includes Faber’s request for one additional Special Investigations Unit officer.

While Faber said there are usually red flags indicating bad actions, they often start small. But they can involve big money.

An employee in the Clark County Auditor’s office was ordered to pay back $1.8 million; the former fiscal officer for York Township in Belmont County was on the hook for more than $123,000; and the ex-human resources officer for the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority ordered to pay nearly $407,000 in restitution.

The Associated Press contributed to the story.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.