LaRose’s secretary of state office move called into question

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(The Center Square) – Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose says Democratic lawmakers’ concerns about the planned move of the department’s offices to the same building that is the official address for his U.S. Senate campaign is silly.

LaRose plans to move the secretary of state’s office from where it’s been for the past 20 years, less than a mile away in downtown Columbus, to an office building registered as his campaign headquarters.

In a letter to LaRose dated Wednesday, lawmakers called for full transparency and details on what they say is the potential misuse of taxpayer funds for the move.

“Out of concern for our constituents, we are requesting additional information about the process you followed to identify a new location for the Secretary of State’s office,” wrote the lawmakers. “We trust this request will reach you with the urgency it warrants. As elected officials, we owe Ohioans complete transparency into how their tax dollars are spent, especially when related to political campaigns.”

LaRose said the move is necessary for efficiency and security and will save money.

“We’re actually going to save taxpayers’ dollars,” LaRose said. “This was unanimously approved by the controlling board months ago, to say that somehow this affiliation, the choice of building, has something to do with the law firm that filed my FEC paperwork is just silly. It happens to be in the same building that our new office is going to be in. But that is completely incidental to the fact that this is the best choice for wherever we are moving our office.”

In his request to the Ohio Controlling Board, LaRose said the move would cost $400,000. He said the annual cost will be $761,781.50, a cost savings of nearly $134,000 over the next fiscal year.

The office is expected to pay a lump sum payment of $400,000 for half of the $800,000 planned improvements in fiscal year 2023 and pay an additional $200,000 in rent over the 2024-25 biennium.

LaRose requested a waiver from the competitive bid process.

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