YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Every year, the State of Ohio takes a look at equipment bought with your tax dollars that has disappeared.
Over the past months, 27 Investigates has taken a look at just what Ohio state government offices have lost.
Computers, hard drives, iPhones, industrial equipment: All of this and more is missing from state agencies.
The partial list totals $1.2 million dollars in equipment just over the past three years.
And state lawmakers said they know nothing about it.
“I had no idea about this until you called me,” Ohio State Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan said. “Lawn tractors. How do those disappear?”
The state’s list of missing items is public record. But few people know about it. Even longtime lawmakers like State Senator Capri Cafaro didn’t know about it before WKBN’s investigation.
“There are some big ticket items on here. Twenty thousand dollars a pop for some of these things,” Cafaro said.
The state Department of Administrative Services didn’t want to answer WKBN’s questions about the list. Reporter Amanda Smith filed a formal request for this information on June 10. It took 88 days for the state to give a reply.
When she finally got the missing state asset list, no one at the state wanted to talk about it.
“We do not believe the items are truly ‘missing’, rather the items were most likely incorrectly coded or the proper paper work was not completed when the item was salvaged,” an email statement from the Ohio Department of Corrections stated.
It took some time, but the agency was able to determine that those 13 items include two welding machines and a shop press.
Because none of the state agencies would answer our questions, we went to their boss: Ohio Governor John Kasich. His office refused to grant an interview, and sent this email:
“Ohio State government is a $70 billion enterprise and we are no different than any other business that size and have policies and procedures in place to track inventory and any assets that may be missing.”
Lepore-Hagan said she has reached out to the state auditor and attorney general asking for an investigation into the missing items. She said she wants to see a more transparent and more frequent reporting of the list
“It’s just keeping the taxpayers out of the loop, just enough, that they’re not aware that their taxpayer dollars are just being misplaced,” Lepore-Hagan said.
Senator Cafaro said she’d like to see more awareness of the list.
“It’s something that many of us are unfamiliar with, which is shocking,” Cafaro said. “Particularly for someone like myself who has been in office for almost nin years.”
The Ohio Department of Corrections said they’ve upgraded their record keeping in the months since WKBN started looking into the items missing on their list.
Some departments, including Transportation and Public Safety, keep separate “missing asset” lists.
WKBN asked for those documents but has yet to hear back. In the meantime, you can look at the list of missing items that the state did give us.