The Governor that Shouldn’t Be
Mike DeWine wants to be the next Governor of Ohio. He’ll make a lot of compelling arguments why he should be, but there are two important reasons he shouldn’t: 1) he will bankrupt Ohio just like he has bankrupted the Attorney General’s Office, and 2) he will starve local law enforcement to make himself look more important.
Breaking the Piggy Bank. When Richard Cordray left the Attorney General’s office, he left with a staff of about 1,500 and a budget surplus of about $60M. In his six years in office, DeWine has swelled the office to 1,700 people and is on target to run out of money shortly after the 2018 election.
I filed numerous public record requests for the office’s financial projections, and they basically denied that such records exist. It’s was difficult to believe that DeWine doesn’t actually get briefings from his Chief Financial Officer on the financial health of an agency that employees 1,700 people, but I did find one vague memo between the Chief Financial Officer and the DeWine, which concedes that they have spent down their entire surplus and that they project balancing their budget with less than 1% to spare in 2017, and that “In order to fund the increased payroll cost next fiscal year, we will need to continue to manage attrition and create the necessary savings.”
Translation: “We’re going to be broke next year.”
It’s important to remember that this doesn’t mean that DeWine spent $60M over six years and went broke, because he’s still been bringing in tens of millions of dollars in General Revenue Funds (i.e., taxpayer money) every year. No, the $60M dollars was like a piggy bank; it was the surplus that Cordray had bequeathed DeWine. And yet, somehow, the office is almost broke.
“Protecting Ohio’s families” is a local issue. Let’s talk about law enforcement. In Ohio, the overwhelming majority of law enforcement is local. The typical cop you see on the street? They’re employed by a township, a city, or a county. There are over 30,000 cops in Ohio; and only a tiny, tiny fraction of them are “state” law enforcement. If you interact with a cop this year, the odds are that they’re a local cop.
So, you’d think Mike DeWine, who claims he’s pro-cop and that is mission is to “protect Ohio’s families” would be doing everything he can to enhance local law enforcement.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t. There is no doubt that the money has gone to some good programs. DeWine should be lauded for the sexual assault kit testing his office has performed. Getting those kits tested was a great use of taxpayer money because it is bringing justice to hundreds of rape victims.
But what else has the money bought? Poorly-conceived of pet projects that have little or no accountability.
How much do we spend for DeWine to be in the news? DeWine loves getting in the news and announcing initiatives. He announced a Crimes Against Children Unit. He announced a Heroin Unit. He announced an Elder Justice Initiative. But has anyone asked what the taxpayers are getting in return?
They should. My sources indicate that when DeWine created the Heroin Unit he staffed it with a group of people who weren’t even certified officers and had them perform some sort of “surveillance” function. My sources woudln’t say what the function was, but that his overall plan was to people who weren’t even certified officers to investigate heroin. Is it any wonder we’re in the state of affairs we’re in now? How many millions of dollars did we spend on unqualified “DeWine-people” to get cushy government jobs doing “surveillance.” And whom exactly were they spying on from their offices in rural London, Ohio, where the Bureau of Criminal Investigations is located?
Similarly, how much taxpayer money do we spend on the Crimes Against Child Unit (which provides services BCI was already providing) or the Elder Justice Initiative? What are the tangible results? Have we seen a decrease in crimes against children or elder exploitation under DeWine’s watch? There’s certainly no empirical evidence that we have.
If you want to reduce heroin, if you want to decrease crimes against children, if you want to protect the elderly; you turn to your local police agency. You do not turn to a handful of DeWine appointees sitting in their offices in Central Ohio. But that’s the DeWine approach: “Hire more state employees, that’ll fix the problem!”
Starve the locals to make the more dependent on the State. DeWine has built new campuses for BCI in Athens, Toledo, and Springfield. He’s added dozens of new BCI staff, and let them clock in tons of overtime. Yet, at the same time, he has starved local law enforcement, some of whom can barely provide minimal coverage to the county, their city, and the community.
For example, he now owns a literal fleet of mobile driving simulators, shooting simulators, and he recently asked the General Assembly for $1.4M to build a “tactical village.” And that $1.4M just covers construction, the taxpayers will be further on the hook for staffing it once it’s complete.
These “real life” simulators serve a fraction of the state’s 34,000 police officers. Through April 11 of this year, just 1,204 officers had used DeWine’s simulators, but we’re paying millions of dollars for them. Has DeWine produced any evidence that having an officer sit in a driving simulator is actually making Ohio’s street’s any safer? No.
Meanwhile, DeWine claims that he doesn’t have enough money for every officer to maintain the hours of continuing professional training that they clearly need. Think about this for a moment. We can all acknowledge that there are problems between police and community that we need to fix. Mike DeWine’s solution to that problem? Teach cops how to kick in doors and shoot people. That’s what a tactical village does. Or put people in a souped up video game and call it a stressed-based driving simulator.
Of course, DeWine will point to recently publicized shootings of black men and say we need this tactical village. The science doesn’t bear that out. It is well known that police are actually slower to shoot black suspects than white suspects. But acknowledging that inconvenient truth would force DeWine to admit he’s wasting millions taxpayer dollars chasing some phantom boogie man.
Mike DeWine says he wants to “protect Ohio’s families,” but you don’t do that by training a few thousand cops a year on mobile driving simulator or tactical villages. You do that by giving all 30,000 cops access to continuing professional training. DeWine should know this, he created a Law Enforcement Advisory Group on Police Training that recommended officers receive 40 hours of Continuing Professional Training (CPTs). DeWine could require officers take up to 24 hours of CPTs a year. Did he? No. Why?
DeWine thinks officer training is no more important than cosmetology training. DeWine gets to decide how many hours of CPTs every officer must take every year because he gets to say how many hours he’ll pay for (the Attorney General is required to reimburse officers for CPT hours, but he gets to decide how much he’ll spend). In 2015, the year before his advisory group issued its recommendation, DeWine was only requiring four hours of training.
Four hours. In other words, DeWine thinks cops should take as many hours of continuing training as cosmetologists. That’s how important he thinks police training is. It’s on par with pedicures.
Luckily, at the end of 2015 the General Assembly stepped in and mandated 10 hours of CPT in 2016 and 20 hours of CPTs in 2017. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee DeWine won’t revert back to 4 hours now that the mandate is ending.
Oddly, his office receives $5–6M a year specifically for police training through casino tax revenues. This would be enough for every officer in Ohio to receive at least 8 hours of training, but DeWine says that only half that money is available to fund police training.
Why? Because he wants his fleet of driving simulators and his tactical village. So he’s taking money that could be spent to training 30,000+ cops, and spending them on splashy simulators that make news, but haven’t proven effective at increasing safety in Ohio.
I spoke with sources at the Fraternal Order of Police who have said they have brought this issue up multiple times. But DeWine is steadfast, he’ll spend that money on toys or gadgets in London, Ohio; and he doesn’t care if the officer that patrols your street — the officer that protects your family — can only get as much yearly training as the person who cuts your hair or does your nails.
Does this really affect me? Yes. It does. Even if you think officers don’t need training, they still need resources. DeWine is spending millions of dollars “fighting” heroin. What does he spend money on? He hires underqualified investigators and he holds massive conferences that he gets to keynote. He grandstands for the media, laying a thin veneer of dedication over a massive financial hole.
Where is he not spend money? On local law enforcement; the people who actually intercept heroin before it comes into your community. Just last week, a local task for seized almost $500,000 in heroin. Sources have told me that DeWine wants to grab the credit for it because the law enforcement team that seized it was part of an Organized Crimes Investigations task force.
But here’s the thing, the Organized Crime Investigation Commission; which exists solely to help fund local task forces paid out almost $9M to local agencies in 2011. In 2016? It paid out less than $1M. That’s $8M not going to your local task forces to stop drug conspiracies or human trafficking rings. That’s $8M being spent on padding the ranks of BCI and having big, flashy conferences. That’s $8M not going to DARE; which DeWine has also cut 25%. That’s money that allows your local cops the ability to interact with school-age children through a proven drug-reduction system.
Government waste “inaction.” It’s possible you’re okay with all this. Maybe you live in one of the very few communities that has enough money to have a fully-funded police force (that is, you live in Cincinnati or Columbus), so you’re okay with DeWine starving local law enforcement.
But are you okay with government waste? With government living high on the hog while the average person is underpaid in this slow economy?
DeWine’s attorneys have seen consistent pay increases since 2011. The starting pay for the attorneys has gone from around $45,000 a year to $53,000 a year in 2016. That’s a 3.4% average income growth per year. By contrast, the national average has been a sluggish 2%/yr since 2011. Keep in mind that under the prior AG, Richard Cordray, every employee took a 3.8% pay furlough. That is, they lost 3.8% of their pay.
While most American companies and employees have struggled to make ends meet, and have lived with low growth and modest income increases, we’ve had to sit by while DeWine increased the size of his staff and given them more pay raises than the rest of. So much for government austerity.
And it’s not just pay, there are mundane expenses that might not seem extravagant until you consider that we taxpayers are paying for them. For example, every employee at the AGO has two 21” computer monitors sitting at their desk. Why? Does every one of DeWine’s 1,700 employees actually need two computer monitors? I really have to wonder, why do unpaid interns need two monitors? Or really, even lawyers, which is the bread and butter of the Attorney General’s office. What do lawyers do that requires too monitors? Are they watching Netflix while they write their briefs?
I figure a computer monitor costs about $150, that means DeWine spent a quarter million dollars in taxpayer money to have a second monitor put on every desk. What else is he wasting money on? These things sound trivial, but you add a quarter million here and a quarter million there, and what you end up with is one huge fiscally irresponsible office holder who blows a $60 million surplus in less than eight years.
Final thoughts. I talked to people at the Attorney General’s Office about this. I’ll admit, none of them would go “on the record.” I don’t blame them. I’m not a journalist, I don’t know if I could protect their confidentiality and I had to tell them that. DeWine would probably fire them if he found out they were talking to me, but I’ve confirmed some of the things they’ve told me, and I’ve been stonewalled by DeWine in most of my public record requests. I’m hopeful that someone who knows more about the law will pick up this torch and use whatever magic words are necessary to get DeWine to provide real answer. Or a journalist will take on this cause.
DeWine wants to be the next Governor. But in the last six and a half years he’s bankrupted an office with flashy sales pitch after sale pitch, starved local law enforcement, and shown no sense of financial responsibility. Is this the man who should be Governor?