COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTRF) - According to State Representatives Jack Cera and Kathleen Clyde, Ohio has some of the weakest whistle-blower laws in the nation.
“We shouldn’t be the 47th state in the country in what we offer to protect people who are trying to stand up for what is right,” said Clyde.
The pair was provided the information by the Legislative Services Commission, the organization that works on behalf of lawmakers to research and draft legislation which indicated Ohio last updated its whistle-blower laws a couple of decades ago.
Cera, who has been a longtime lawmaker, has seen the good and bad of state government.
“I’ve been around here when there’s been bipartisan corruption in the 80’s and 90’s that has been called out and I’ve spoken up against that when it was my own party,” said Cera.
Now Cera is concerned about things like the scandal surrounding the now-defunct Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow online charters school and the Department of Administrative Services giving no-bid contracts with what he describes as little to no oversight costing the state tens of millions of dollars.
“I’m about one thing and I don’t care what party you’re in when you’re ripping off the taxpayers you need to be called out for it,” said Cera.
The problem is calling them out can be a scary process for employees just trying to keep a job.
Ohio’s whistle-blower laws are not as strong as most other states.
Cera and Clyde want to bolster them so more employees feel safe in bringing to light wrongdoing without having to fear retaliation that could cost them and their family dearly.
The bill they announced Thursday addresses five areas: Simplifying the process of reporting; broadening the coverage of protections for reporting; providing for greater protection against retaliation; establishing a reasonable time period to address retaliation claims and coming up with better remedies for retaliation against the whistleblower and the costs associated with coming forward.
“New legislation to upgrade Ohio’s whistleblower protections could make Ohio a top state in weeding out waste and fraud and protecting those who speak out for what is right,” said Clyde.
Under current law employees of ECOT and the Department of Administrative Services did not feel it was safe enough for them to keep their job or their livelihood and bring to light what was happening in those situations.
Cera and Clyde do not view this as a partisan issue and hope to garner enough support across the aisle to get the bill started this fall.
Cera went so far as to say he would be willing to step down as a joint primary sponsor if a Republican would like to step up and take his place to make the bill a bi-partisan effort.
If the bill fails to complete its legislative journey, Cera and Clyde say the hearings the bill does get will be useful in restarting it more quickly once the new General Assembly begins in January.
Clyde is running for Secretary of State this November. Her opponent in the race, I talked to the legislative aide for State Senator Frank LaRose who told me that the Senator has not yet had an opportunity to review the bill because it has not been introduced. Only after he reads the specific language of the bill can he form an opinion on it.
With that said, his aid did inform me that LaRose has supported the concept of protecting whistle-blowers in the past.
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