Mike DeWine

By The Associated Press

Cincinnati Enquirer. January 24, 2024. Editorial:

Another loss for Ohio: Supreme Court rules DeWine’s Super Bowl visit cost can stay secret

The DeWine administration argued disclosure of expense receipts could reveal information that could be used to attack the governor. We think that’s a stretch.

Win some, lose some. This one we lost. But the biggest losers are Ohio taxpayers.

In a 4-3 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the cost to taxpayers of sending a security detail to the Super Bowl with Gov. Mike DeWine is not a public record. DeWine took 19 family members to Super Bowl 56 between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. on Sunday Feb. 13, 2022. The Ohio State Highway Patrol sent troopers to protect the governor.

The Cincinnati Enquirer sued the DeWine administration, seeking information on how much the trip cost. But in a split decision, the Court ruled the requested records could be withheld because they fell under the security records exemption in the law. The DeWine administration had argued that disclosure of the expense receipts could reveal the size of the security detail, which hotels and rental car vendors they use, when they refuel vehicles and other information that could be used to attack the governor.

We think that’s a stretch.

During a time of extreme political volatility, unrest and even violence (see plot against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer), it’s understandable that there’s heightened concern about safety. But the Enquirer wasn’t requesting specifics about the strategy, procedures or placement of the governor’s security detail during the Super Bowl or even an itemized breakdown of expenses. We simply asked for a grand total of what was spent on the taxpayer-funded security detail for the duration of the trip. The notion that releasing that dollar figure could pose a danger to DeWine or sabotage future outings is absurd and an insult to every taxpayer in the state.

Supreme Court’s party-line decision ‘speaks for itself’

The Super Bowl was a unique event, at a specific stadium in a different state and city. This wasn’t like a trip the governor makes routinely, such as traveling from his residence to the Statehouse every day. There was no evidence shown that disclosing the cost of the security detail would provide any information that someone with ill intent could use down the road to harm the governor.

“This decision means a governor can go on a pleasure trip and spend a lot of taxpayer dollars – taxpayers paid for the security detail, lodging, transportation and food required for this period he was at the Super Bowl – and taxpayers just don’t have any idea how much that cost,” said Jack Greiner, a partner at Faruki PLL law firm in Cincinnati who represents Enquirer Media in First Amendment and media issues. “Was it a good thing he went or a bad thing he went? We really don’t know because we don’t have the information.”

What we can surmise is that the price tag for DeWine’s junket was significant enough that it would have caused him embarrassment if taxpayers found out. The governor’s defenders will point out that he and his wife Fran paid their own expenses, which is great. However, Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval also traveled to the game with security − one city police officer, whose expenses for the six-day trip, including a coach plane ticket, totaled roughly $6,000 − and the city responded to the Enquirer’s records request the same day it was made. Pureval also paid for the trip himself.

Enquirer Executive Editor Beryl Love said it best: “The fact this decision was made along party lines speaks for itself.” Four Republicans signed onto the majority opinion, while three Democrats signed onto the dissent, signaling to taxpayers that this case was less about their right to know and more about protecting one of its own.

How releasing the cost of security for the governor’s trip to Super Bowl 56 could pose a danger now or down the road is beyond us. But that information is valuable to taxpayers who want to make certain their elected leaders are being good stewards of their money.

Allowing the government to operate in secrecy is the real danger.