Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor’s top aide spent hours placing campaign phone calls and engaging in other political activity while she was supposed to be working on behalf of taxpayers, a state investigation says.The revelations come as some in the Republican party have touted Taylor as a top possibility to run as Ohio’s next governor in 2018.
Laura Johnson was Taylor’s chief of staff from 2011 until her resignation in 2014. During that time, she campaigned for both Taylor and Ohio Gov. John Kasich during dates and times for which she filed state government time sheets. Johnson spent almost 30 hours in 19 meetings and made 150 phone calls with campaign officials and fundraisers, according to records gathered by State Inspector General Randall J. Meyer and first reported by the Columbus Dispatch this week.
All told, that time represents about $1,800 worth of taxpayer money Johnson collected while working on Taylor and Kasich’s campaigns, the newspaper reports. Engaging in political activity while on the clock for public jobs is against Ohio law. Johnson’s violations could result in 1st-degree misdemeanor charges, which carry a maximum penalty of six months in jail.
The Dispatch analyzed the records gathered by Meyer’s office and discovered the campaign activities. Meyer’s initial reports only included findings about another 22 hours Johnson reported she was working while she wasn’t. Meyer’s report criticizes Taylor for lack of oversight over Johnson and other employees in the lieutenant governor’s office.
Kasich and Taylor’s offices say they had no knowledge that Johnson was engaging in the illegal campaign activity. Johnson’s lawyer Terry Sherman says she was just doing her job keeping her bosses “in touch with what is going on.”
Meanwhile, Democrats have called for a continued investigation.
“How many staffers were involved with campaigning on state time? Were other staffers instructed to stay quiet? What did Taylor and Kasich themselves know and when did they know it?” Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper asked in a statement. “Why did the inspector general fail to follow up on these blatant facts and report on potential election law violations?”
Meyer has said that his office wasn’t searching for those violations, but instead looking for hours when Johnson said she had worked but actually didn’t.