COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio's ethics agency on Thursday warned six of nine directors of Ohio's fledgling, privatized nonprofit job-creation board that their business interests raise potential conflicts of interest.
The Ohio Ethics Commission released names of the six JobsOhio board members, including Chairman James Boland, and two employees whose business ties had been flagged in a routine review of their confidential financial disclosure filings.
JobsOhio has been criticized in public debate and in a challenge to the Ohio Supreme Court for its unique structure and for having an influential private-sector board that's helping set Gov. John Kasich's economic agenda with little oversight.
Paul Nick, who directs the Ethics Commission, said conflict-of-interest findings by the commission do not imply wrongdoing. They flag sensitive areas for individuals to look out for. Ohio law largely exempted JobsOhio from state ethics laws.
JobsOhio spokeswoman Laura Jones said none of the potential conflicts identified by the commission amounted to actual conflicts because the board has not played a role in any dealings the flagged companies might have done with the state.
The JobsOhio board members with possible conflicts are Boland, retired vice chairman of Ernst & Young and former president and CEO of Cavaliers Operating Co.; Steven A. Davis, chairman and CEO of Bob Evans Farms Inc.; Gary R. Heminger, president and CEO of Marathon Petroleum Corp.; Lawrence J. Kidd, CEO of Reliable Staffing Services and RSS Professional; Pamela Springer, former CEO of Manta Media; and Brad Lindner, CEO of United Dairy Farmers.
The employees named were managing director Kristi Tanner and former general counsel Kristopher Wahlers.
Wahlers had filed a confidential statement with the commission noting that his former law firm, Calfee Halter, had offered to assist JobsOhio "on miscellaneous matters" while Wahlers was on staff. Wahlers reported he no longer had any financial interest in the firm.
Jones said the JobsOhio conflicts-of-interest policy, often cited among its voluntary accountability measures, has never been invoked.
"No JobsOhio board member had a conflict because they do not make recommendations for state assistance on projects," Jones said. "They did not participate in that process, so no conflict could have occurred."
State Rep. John Patrick Carney, a Democratic candidate for state auditor, has said that he has not received any records after filing a public records request with the state Development Services Agency seeking instances in which the conflict of interest policy might have been initiated.
"This is proof positive for Gov. Kasich and the GOP that it's time for accountability and transparency at JobsOhio," he said after the ethics flags were announced. "JobsOhio has had numerous chances to do the right thing, but they just won't play by the rules — even when they write the rules apparently."