File-Ohio State Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson

Ohio state Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson, D-Toledo, speaks on the floor of the Ohio House of Representatives.

(The Center Square) – Vendors wanting to do business with the state of Ohio would be banned if they are caught committing fraud under proposed legislation in the General Assembly.

What sponsoring lawmakers are calling anti-corruption legislation also is aimed at stopping influence and collusion. Ohio is one of a few states that does not have a law modeled after similar federal legislation.

“Ohio is potentially letting criminals get away with millions of dollars of ill-gotten taxpayer dollars by failing to adopt these long-needed and commonsense reforms,” Rep. Jeffrey Crossman, D-Parma, said. “There is no reason why we shouldn’t pass these bills to catch and punish fraud.”

The Ohio False Claim Act, based on the federal law, creates civil penalties for violators and allows for a person to bring civil action against violators on behalf of the state and the individual. It also sets out compensation for employees subject to retribution by their employer for participating in the civil action.

The legislation includes a list of items that would bar a vendor from consideration for winning a state contract based on a reasonable belief the vendor had violated the provisions.

Vendors no longer would be eligible for a state contract if it attempted to influence a public employee to breach ethical conduct standards or influence a contract. Vendors also are barred from contracts if they collude to restrain competition, have been convicted under state or federal antitrust laws or been convicted under state or federal corruption laws.

“As the former Mayor of the City of Toledo, I know how important it is for contracts to go through a fair process and for vendors to be held accountable,” Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson, D-Toledo, said. “The debarment bill that we introduced will give clear guidance to the Director of Administrative Services and the office holders, such as the Secretary of State and the Auditor, who oversee state business with corporations. Companies that are not playing by the rules shouldn’t be able to just pay a small fine and consider it the price of doing business with the state of Ohio.”

Regional Editor

An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.