The Ohio Supreme Court has decided not to get involved in an unusual case where the director of a state agency was suing another state agency. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports the decision is bringing relief, frustration and lingering uncertainty.
In a 4-2 vote, the justices declined to hear the mandamus action filed by the public-private entity JobsOhio to force Commerce director David Goodman to sign the agreement that would allow for the transfer of the state’s liquor profits to fund the job creation agency. There had been some legal actions filed and criticisms raised about the constitutionality of JobsOhio. Goodman had refused to sign the deal with the full support of the Kasich administration, and he explained why in a conference call in August.
GOODMAN: “It is imperative to give the Supreme Court the opportunity to address the constitutional question, to clear up any uncertainty, and to allow the state to move forward with the transaction and JobsOhio to maximize its resources available for job creation and economic development.”
In the joint decision, the court writes that it doesn’t have jurisdiction to grant the order that Goodman sign the agreement and that the case belongs in common pleas court. The justices also note that it’s clear the complaint was an attempt to get the court to rule on whether the creation of JobsOhio is constitutional. So the next big case on JobsOhio could be a lawsuit filed by the progressive coalition Progress Ohio – a suit supported by the Tea Party-backed 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.
ROTHENBERG: “Somebody has got to decide and rule on this constitutionality issue – otherwise $550 million of state taxpayer money is going to go to a private corporation that may be unconstitutional.”
Brian Rothenberg with Progress Ohio says perhaps if the court rules that he has standing to sue, this question of constitutionality can be resolved.
ROTHENBERG: “The state can complain all they want and the Kasich administration about all the games, but they’ve been the ones that have been playing games with issues like whether you have the right to sue, and issues like having JobsOhio sue a cabinet director. So if anybody’s to blame for this dragging out, it’s the state trying to avoid a court actually ruling on the constitutional issue.”
A statement from Laura Jones, the communications director for JobsOhio, reads in part: “We still believe that the legislation is constitutional. We obviously would have preferred the Court to weigh in, but declining to hear this case isn’t a barrier to our mission to help create jobs in Ohio.”
A statement from Goodman reads in its entirety: “I continue to personally believe that JobsOhio is constitutional but wanted the Supreme Court to have a chance to address issues that have been raised. With the Court now having had that chance, I feel that my objective was met.”
But there’s no word on whether Goodman will now sign the liquor profits transfer agreement.