On Wednesday, Curt Steiner, senior vice president of external relationsat Ohio State, sent a detailed letter to the Joint Legislative EthicsCommittee clarifying why four golf outings he had with Gov. Bob Taft between May 2000 and Sept. 2001 were not reported on his lobbyist disclosure forms.
The letter was in response to an Aug. 22 written request sent to Steiner by the committee asking that he explain why four outings with Gov. Taft at Tartan Fields Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, where Steiner is a member, were omitted from his lobbying disclosure filings. The letter stated that Steiner had “fifteen days from receipt of this notice” to amend his filings to the committee concerning the golf outings.
According to an Ohio Ethics Commission investigative report, Steinerpaid for six of Taft’s golf outings between 1998 and 2001. Publicofficials and lobbyists are required by law to report any gifts theyreceive or give that exceed $75 on their annual financial statements. The price for a round of golf at Tartan Fields Golf Club is $125.
Steiner explains in his letter that it was not his intention to pay for Gov. Taft’s golf. “For the most part, the records I have been able to gather support my memory and belief that I didn’t pay for his golf,” Steiner says in the letter.
In the letter, Steiner gives detailed explanations concerning each ofthe four outings in question.
On May 29, 2000, Steiner’s Tartan Field’s Golf Club bill reflects thathe paid for all three guests in his foursome – including Taft. Steiner says in the letter that he intended to seek reimbursement but was unable to confirm that he did so.
Steiner says in the letter he did not, to the best of his memory or records, pay for Gov. Taft’s golf on the other three dates in question — providing the explanation that either Tartan Fields gave Gov. Taft complimentary rounds of golf or the club has no direct record of it.
Legislative Inspector General Tony Bledsoe said Steiner’s response satisfies all of the committee’s administrative questions.
“His letter more than answers our questions,” said Bledsoe. “We appreciate how cooperative he was during this process.” Steiner says he did everything possible to answer the questions that were asked by the committee. “I think the investigation and the look into it were very thorough and it’s something that has been resolved,” said Steiner.
Although Steiner is in the clear for now, his case is the latest in a string of instances that have raised questions concerning ethical misconduct at OSU.
Roger Blackwell, a former business professor who was convicted of federal insider trading charges earlier this year, and Brian Hicks, a current Board of Trustees member and former chief of staff to Gov. Taft who was convicted in late July of misdemeanor ethics violations, are two notable names connected to the university that have fallen to ethical shortcomings in the past year.
The Blackwell Inn has yet to comment on removing Roger Blackwell’s name from the hotel that bears it on Tuttle Park Place and Brian Hicks has refused to resign from his position on the Board of Trustees.
Furthermore, OSU has refused to comment on either incident or even acknowledge that it is looking into the problem.
Democratic state senator Marc Dann, a leading critic of the investmentscandals that have plagued Taft’s administration, says he is concerned about how OSU is going to deal with questions being raised about the university’s ethical conduct.
“How can OSU demand more accountability from their employees thantheir own board members?”
Dann says it is time for OSU to become more proactive in addressingthe ethics concerns at the university.
“OSU should explain their policy and say whether the people of OhioState are going to be held to a high ethical standard or not,” said Dann.
The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee will forward Steiner’s letter to Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro for review of the facts. The question of whether a person has knowingly filed a false statement is outside of the authority of the Inspector General, and the final ruling concerning the validity of the statements and facts in Steiner’s letter is decided by the Attorney General’s office.