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Josh Mandel, Who Campaigned against Cronyism, Hired Young and Inexperienced Friends in Six-Figure State Jobs

Republican Josh Mandel hired young, inexperienced staffers from his 2010 campaign and gave them high-ranking jobs in the state treasurer’s office.

It’s common for new elected office holders to hire people they know, but Mr. Mandel’s hires stand out because of the stance he took against incumbent Democrat Kevin Boyce’s hiring practices during the heated 2010 race for treasurer. Mr. Mandel criticized Mr. Boyce for appointing politically connected people and pledged to work differently if elected to the office that oversees billions of dollars in investments and bond deals.

“Unlike the current officeholder, I will ensure that my staff is comprised of qualified financial professionals — rather than political cronies and friends — and that investment decisions are based on what is best for Ohioans,” Mr. Mandel said in October 2010.

Shortly after being sworn in to a four-year term as treasurer, Mr. Mandel began campaigning to unseat incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.

To see if Mandel was fulfilling his pledge not to hire friends, the Dayton Daily News reviewed personnel files and records from the treasurer’s office. The review showed that Mr. Mandel hired six campaign workers whose average age is twenty-six and assigned them duties ranging from debt management to policy-advising to community outreach.

Mandel, who is thirty-four, picked as his new senior policy advisor twenty-seven-year-old Michael Lord, his former campaign manager and legislative aide. Mr. Lord earned $13.95 an hour as Mr. Mandel’s aide. His new position has a salary of $100,000.

“It’s really difficult for our officeholders not to feel beholden to those that surrounded them in the campaign, but they have a responsibility to hire the most qualified people,” said Catherine Turcer of Ohio Citizen Action, a nonpartisan government watchdog group. She added: “Josh Mandel had a responsibility to hire the most capable applicants, not the most politically connected ones.”

Mr. Mandel defended his hiring choices.

One of Mandel’s first hires was twenty-six-year-old Joe Aquilino, political director during the 2010 treasurer’s race, as director of debt management at $90,000 a year. Mr. Aquilino has returned to the campaign side as political director now that Mandel is running for the U.S. Senate.

In the treasurer’s office, Mr. Aquilino worked under General Counsel Seth Metcalf. Mr. Metcalf is also a friend from college, managing Mandel’s campaign for student government president at Ohio State University in 1999.

Mr. Metcalf often sits in for Mandel at Board of Deposit meetings, where the three-member panel decides which banks hold billions of dollars in taxpayer money. Since taking office, Mr. Mandel, who chairs the board, has attended just one of fifteen meetings.

Mr. Mandel hired Mr. Metcalf in January 2011 at $125,000-a-year salary but increased it to $150,000-a-year in May 2011.

Mr. Mandel also hired a campaign supporter to be his deputy chief financial officer, though he says he wasn’t aware of the donations. Conrad Metz was hired three months ago at an annual salary of $100,000. Campaign finance records show he contributed $1,700 to Mandel’s state and federal campaigns since 2006, including $500 in October.

Via Dayton Daily News.

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