Thursday, November 20, 2003

Web site will list those who have cheated state



By Jordan Gentile
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - A new state law will require all state agencies to check the state auditor's Web site for a list of people and organizations that have misspent funds and owe money to state and local governments.

Contractors who show up on the database won't be eligible for more business unless they pay up.

The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, was passed after a Cincinnati Enquirer investigation revealed that firms misspent more than $346 million since 2000. The Web site, in January, can be found at www.auditor.state.oh.us/.

"There will always be those who think this is free money and try to loot the public," said Jeff Jacobson, a suburban Dayton Republican who succeeded in getting the requirements into this year's budget bill. "They need to know they're not going to get away with it anymore."

State Auditor Betty Montgomery will operate the database next year. Her spokesman, Joe Case, said the office is notifying state agencies of the new law requiring background checks.

"We haven't confirmed that everyone is aware of the law," he said. "Our hope is that that we can get the word out. Misuse of public money can't be tolerated."

Still, Case says he didn't know who would enforce the law if agencies failed to consult the database.

Bob Beasley, a spokesman for State Attorney General Jim Petro, couldn't answer the question either. "I don't know how you'd keep tabs on it," he said. "You just have to trust that they'll do it."




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