Columbus — A state lawmaker criticized Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine’s process for selecting outside law firms on June 2, saying the process favors politics over performance.
Rep. Chris Redfern, also Ohio’s Democratic chairman, cited an August 2012 email in which DeWine appeared to direct his staff to give special counsel work to DeWine’s campaign treasurer, Columbus attorney J.B. Hadden.
Redfern read excerpts of the email correspondence — obtained under a records request — to fellow members of the powerful state Controlling Board. The board subsequently cleared more than $26.4 million in special counsel contracts over two years.
In the heavily redacted email string, Hadden expressed interest in working on a particular case. One of his emails was forwarded to DeWine’s personal email address. DeWine sent it back to a team of top staffers with the note, “Please make this happen unless there’s a reason not to.”
Michael Hall, the office’s director of outside counsel, told the board June 2 that political ties and contributions are not factors in the staff’s selection process. He said a standardized set of factors also isn’t used, however, because contracts and client wishes differ.
Hall said he was not aware Hadden was DeWine’s campaign treasurer and didn’t remember seeing the email in question until he was fulfilling the records request. He told Redfern he was not reading the email correctly.
Messages were left with Hadden and with DeWine’s office seeking clarification on the nature of the entire exchange.
According to another email requested by Redfern, Hall replied the next day to DeWine’s request to “make this happen,” writing, “I will set up the meeting.”