A recent editorial by the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
It is hard to understand how Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted does not see a problem with serving as a paid board member for a private Ohio bank that is regulated by and does business with the state of Ohio.
You may recall that Heartland BancCorp, which does business as Heartland Bank, recently announced Husted’s appointment to the company’s board of directors.
The post is a paid position, although neither the bank nor Husted disclosed his compensation.
Husted was elected to the board in March after he and his wife invested in Heartland, but the banking company didn’t announce his appointment until May.
That appointment is loaded with potential conflicts of interests.
Husted runs InnovateOhio, the state’s business and technological innovation initiative. He was paid $171,300 for that work in 2021.
As lieutenant governor, he also heads state initiatives to promote workforce training and streamlining of regulations and tends to serve as a point person for Gov. Mike DeWine’s business and economic development-related initiatives. That includes having influence at JobsOhio, the state’s private economic development arm.
Heartland Bank has several points of overlap with the state government.
As a state-chartered bank, it is regulated by the state Department of Commerce. It is certified as a public depository, meaning it’s eligible to hold cash and other investments owned by the state government. Through a title company subsidiary called Transcounty Title Agency, Heartland participates in an electronic lien and titling program administered through the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which falls under the governor’s office. Transcounty received $813,100 in state grants, administered through the state Public Works Commission, from 2013 through 2015, according to the state.
Heartland, in its statement, said Husted consulted with a lawyer before taking the board post and has pledged to recuse himself and act in any way that the law requires should any conflicts arise.
That’s not good enough.
Effective government requires transparency and public confidence that those holding positions of public trust are acting free from undue outside influences.
As such, the standard for officeholders should be to avoid any appearances of potential conflicts or impropriety.
Husted’s decision could open a floodgate for elected officials to use their seats of power to secure lucrative positions in the for-profit universe, raising immediate questions about whether they sought office to serve the public or to fill their pockets with cash.
The head of the Ohio Ethics Commission told cleveland.com’s Andrew Tobias that Husted would have to abstain from any matter that might affect the bank in (his) public roles.
But there is nothing in state ethics law that permits or prohibits a lieutenant governor from holding outside work.
That’s something the General Assembly should address.
It’s hard to accept that “trust me” is the proper guardrail for public confidence in state government. Husted should resign from this position immediately, and if he does not, voters should take note when they go to the polls in November.
— Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 24,