Mayor of Columbus returns speech sponsorship gifts

COLUMBUS (AP) — The mayor of Ohio’s capital city has returned $66,000 he received in solicited donations to pay for his annual “State of the City” speech following a newspaper’s reporting on the issue, the mayor’s office said.

The coverage by The Columbus Dispatch of the donations made to Mayor Andrew Ginther caused Ginther to reflect on the situation, Robin Davis, spokeswoman for Ginther, told the paper in an email Thursday.

Ginther, a Democrat, delivered the annual address Feb. 13 at a city high school. Expenses covered by the donations included $20,600 in lighting, $12,000 for catering for a post-speech reception, $7,300 for advertising, and $175 for Ginther’s makeup artist, the paper said.

Some of the sponsors who donated to Ginther, a Democrat, have multi-million dollar city contracts or have lobbied Columbus for tax breaks or public funding for projects, the Dispatch reported. The companies include consultants, developers and engineering firms.

Despite the decision to return the money, “We have been fully transparent about how the State of the City has been funded, and the private, public, and not-for-profit sponsors who have supported this event over the years, and we do not believe there was anything improper with these sponsorships,” Davis said in Thursday’s email.