Mystery of missing state property

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – You’ve paid for it. Millions of dollars for items that help state employees do their jobs, but a three month long 2 NEWS Investigation shows hundreds of those items are missing.

For months, we’ve been asking for a list of missing and stolen state property and what we found on it will surprise you.  Laptops, cell phones and office chairs are most likely to go missing in the day to day working world, but its items like, safes, ATVs and guns that have us asking questions.

A $12,000 copier, a $2,500 laptop…and the list goes on and on.  You paid for them; the state used them and now they’re missing.

“Each asset represents tax payer dollars and we want to make sure we are good stewards of those dollars,” said State Representative Jim Butler.

Ohio state law says all state agencies are required to keep track of everything they buy, update or get rid of and they’re supposed to report that information to the Department of Administrative Services, DAS.

It took 2 NEWS Investigates 3 months of emails, phone calls and visits to DAS in Columbus to even obtain the lists which are public record.

We eventually received the last two full calendar years and found 26 state agencies reported missing or stolen property. We did the math and found taxpayers spend more than $700,000.

But it’s not a topic departments want to talk about on camera. Agency after agency denied our request for an interview.

The Public Utility Commission and Governor’s office referred us back to the agency that manages the list, DAS. They too declined an interview but did agree to answer questions via email.

We found they had 100 missing items in 2013.

Their statement said in part, “we take the management of state assets seriously. We have confidence in the state’s asset managers and their ability to track state assets and will continue to look for ways to improve our efforts.”

The Department of Natural Resources which manages wildlife and state parks also gave us a statement.  They have two ATVs on the list as well as 3 guns! All listed as stolen.

Their statement reads in part, “We are extremely concerned with the fact that these weapons are no longer in our possession, which is why we since have equipped all our law enforcement vehicles with audible alarms.”

But we still wanted to ask someone directly about these items and what DAS does with the list.

When Governor Kasich offered to talk to us last week about jobs coming to Ohio…I also asked him about this missing and stolen property.

Natalie: “How is the state making sure it’s keeping track of these items that are essentially paid for by tax dollars?”

Governor Kasich: “Look, today is Proctor and Gamble day, so we’ll get back to you.”

It’s been 6 days and we still haven’t heard back and we still have questions.

That’s when we got Representatives Roland Winburn and Jim Butler involved.

They both are asking questions and reviewing legislation on how the state manages these assets and why so many are missing and stolen.

“We have to look and see if there are any inconsistencies, if there is confusion,” said State Representative Roland Winburn.

2 NEWS Investigates found some confusion.
When searched the records we noticed the Ohio Department of Transportation wasn’t on the list, even though the Ohio State Highway Patrol confirmed that department had stolen items.
So we went back to the law and found it isn’t too clear.

Natalie: “When you look at this and you read this do you think that every agency should be reporting?”

Rep. Winburn: “Every agency should be reporting as I understand it.”

But that’s not exactly how it works. According to DAS there are 12 agencies including the Department of Public Safety and Transportation that don’t have to report their missing and stolen assets to DAS

DAS said those 12 agencies use their own in-house system and keep their own records but they eventually hope to have every agency on one system.

Both Butler and Winburn said it’s a good thing the state is keeping track of their property but they want to be sure something is done with that information

“Since I’m part of that, it is my responsibility to inquire as well and to get some resolve to this,” said Rep. Winburn.

“For me, I’m going to keep monitoring it to make sure that it is working. I think the system as designed should work, it just needs to be executed properly,” said Rep. Butler.

I asked how some of these items could go missing in the first place. Some of the reasons I got were, “it’s probably around the office somewhere or we’ve since replaced it.”
DAS said since there’s always the possibility of finding these items the list can change daily.

 

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