FitzGerald Says Deeper Scandal Possible But Taylor Dismisses Allegation

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Just a day after Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor fired her Chief of Staff and another top aide, comments today from Democratic nominee gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald have stoked a sharp rebuff from Ohio Republicans.

"What we know is that there is an allegation that state employees were doing work for the Kasich campaign on state time," said FitzGerald.  "So these folks were not fired because the Governor or Lt Governor had appropriate oversight.  It happened because there's this allegation that people on state time were doing political work for the benefit of the governor."

Taylor's spokesman Chris Brock wasted no time challenging FitzGerald's statement.

"These allegations are completely baseless," Brock told 10TV.

FitzGerald was referring to an allegation made by the liberal blog Plunderbund that had requested the payroll records of both Laura Johnson and Heather Brandt.  They reviewed the records of both since January 1st after receiving a tip.

Johnson, Taylor's top aide for three and a half years, resigned Friday.

Brandt, an aide to Johnson, also resigned but offered a terse statement that she was doing so because of a "hostile work environment" and that she could not give a two-week notice "due to my health I can't physically endure this environment."

"What exactly does that mean?" said FitzGerald.  "There are a lot of unanswered questions.  And it's serious if they're not showing up to work because they're working on the Kasich campaign.  We've got to find out if this is part of a pattern and how deep it goes."

Brock told 10TV that "irregularities" were discovered by Taylor's office after the records request was made by Plunderbund in April.

But Republicans strongly deny that Johnson and Brandt had been working on the Kasich campaign.

“Ed FitzGerald's hypocrisy is continuing and growing," said Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf.  "He is now making claims that have no basis, while it is his county paid Inspector General that has done over 50 hours of documented work for his campaign and that has edited official documents at his campaigns request. In addition, FitzGerald is withholding the very information that is in question. So the real question is what is Ed Fitzgerald hiding?"

FitzGerald did not provide proof at his Saturday press conference that either Johnson or Brandt had been working on the Kasich campaign during public hours.

But Taylor has asked the Inspector General and the State Highway Patrol to review the records, and Kasich's Chief Counsel, Michael Grodhaus, has asked both to substantiate the hours they worked outside the office.

"Unfortunately, the flexibility I've tried to show the chief of staff of my personal office hasn't been appropriately respected and the workings of the office have suffered," said Taylor in a statement.  "Not only is that disappointing but it's also unacceptable which is why I've forwarded this matter to the right authorities for their review."

Neither Johnson or Brandt have returned calls to 10TV.