- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Authorities in Columbus are looking into whether two top Ohio Senate aides mishandled time records that serve in some cases to document that they had properly separated their state jobs from their political consulting work.

At issue are the dozens of comp time and leave requests that Chief of Staff Jason Mauk and Communications Director John McClelland created on the weekend of June 21-22 as a newspaper’s public records request was pending.

Senate President Keith Faber, a Celina Republican, said he instructed the two men to review time records and make sure everything was up-to-date. He told The Associated Press the June resignation of Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor’s chief of staff over timesheet irregularities prompted his request.

“To my knowledge, frankly, it’s not unusual,” Faber said. “Those reviews are not uncommon.”

Mauk and McClelland created 62 new comp time and leave requests going back to January, according to an AP review of records released to The Dayton Daily News.

The newspaper’s report, published Sept. 7, highlighted the unique arrangement the Senate Republican Campaign Committee has with Mauk and McClelland. Both men are former Republican Party operatives-turned-Senate staffers who have been hired, while holding state positions, to advise Republican senatorial campaigns.

The caucus committee paid their newly formed business, Penman Group LLC, about $80,000 in April for work done in 2013 and 2014.

Employee time records submitted to a state agency lay a potentially important paper trail for proving that public employees involved in campaigns aren’t doing political work on state time or using state resources - such as printers, phones and parking spaces - for partisan purposes. Such activities are prohibited by law.

Two liberal advocacy groups, ProgressOhio and Common Cause Ohio, referred the Daily News story to Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, alleging Mauk and McClelland violated a law that makes it a felony to tamper with state records when an investigation appears likely.

Without naming the agencies, O’Brien issued a statement saying he was talking to the appropriate authorities.

Faber called the liberal groups’ statements false and defamatory.

“There were no altered comp time documents. No records were changed,” he said. “What they did was submit additional records.”

The new forms were all dated June 23, which Senate legal counsel Frank Strigari said shows that they were honestly filed and neither altered nor back-dated.

The newspaper also reported Mauk used his state parking space on more than 20 days when time records indicated he was away from his state job for all or most of a day. Faber said use of parking spaces is a legal gray area, but those parking costs have since been paid by the campaign committee.

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