- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor’s former chief of staff, who was found to have been going to salon appointments while on the clock, also did political campaign-related work on state time, according to a newspaper’s analysis of records.

Laura Johnson stepped down as Taylor’s top aide in June 2014 after irregularities were discovered in her timesheets. The resignation preceded Taylor’s and Gov. John Kasich’s re-election last year.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday (http://bit.ly/1Xzm9W6) that Johnson made over 150 phone calls to top Kasich-Taylor campaign officials while her timesheets showed she was working for the state. Johnson’s appointment calendar showed she also participated in at least 19 campaign meetings and conference calls on state time, including two meetings with Taylor and five with the campaign’s top fundraiser, the newspaper reported.

State law prohibits public employees from engaging in political activity on the job.

Taylor, a Republican, is considering running for governor in 2018. She’s next in line to succeed Kasich, who is seeking the GOP’s nomination for president.

Kasich’s and Taylor’s offices said both officials were unaware of Johnson’s political work on state time.

The Dispatch said it analyzed records collected by Inspector General Randall Meyer’s office, which released a report last week that examined Johnson and another staffer’s claims for pay for some working hours outside Taylor’s office. The watchdog’s office said the two workers operated with “inadequate oversight” and an “absence of supervision.”

Johnson’s attorney, Terry Sherman, says his client denies wrongdoing.

“I’d say the political work she did was part of her responsibility to keep her boss (Taylor), and her boss (Kasich), in touch with what is going on,” Sherman told The Dispatch.

State investigators found that between mid-2013 and mid-2014 Johnson claimed pay for about 86 hours of drive time to and from the office or salon appointments, along with about five hours of time at a salon. Johnson repaid the state $1,290.17 for hours driving to a hair or nail salon and time spent there.

The inspector general’s report didn’t mention any campaign-related work.

“Our objective was to find the extent to which Johnson was collecting pay” for hours not worked, Deputy Inspector General Carl Enslen said, adding they couldn’t determine if she attended the political meetings in the calendar.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper has called for a criminal investigation and wants to know how many staffers were involved with campaigning on state time.

“Were other staffers instructed to stay quiet?” Pepper asked in a written statement Wednesday. “What did Taylor and Kasich themselves know and when did they know it?”

Taylor requested the inspector general’s investigation after learning of the timesheet irregularities.

Taylor spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said Taylor’s “expectation is for all of her employees to abide by the law.”

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

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