LEWIS CENTER, Ohio – The Canton, Ohio-based firmed hired in April to audit the financial statements of the Ohio Republican Party (ORP) has resigned, highlighting ongoing concerns of the accounting practice of an organization that has not had an audit for 16 to 20 years.

Ohio Republican Chairman Bob Paduchik dropped that bombshell during his chairman’s report to the fall meeting of the Ohio GOP’s State Central Committee more than a week after receiving the letter from the Clifton Larson Allen (CLA) LLP certified public accounting firm.

The brief September 1 email from CLA principal of assurance Gregory Blasiman to ORP Executive Director Justin Bis and Paduchik cited the poor condition of the accounting records for the reason the firm has withdrawn from the contract.

“CLA has determined we will withdraw from the audit engagements covered by that (April) engagement letter … to allow the organization to prioritize its efforts on current accounting and reporting matters,” the email states. “As such, we have terminated the … engagements effective immediately.”

The audit would have covered financial statements for 2019 and 2020, starting with the year-end 2018 financial statement.

Blasiman did not return a phone call seeking additional comment before deadline.

Mark Bainbridge, the District 16 committee member from Upper Arlington, stood up and reminded Ohio GOP management that he had warned that financial records were unable to be audited, repeating his observations of financial misstatements that he had previously said the ORP had not properly corrected.

He told the other central committee members at the meeting, “We have a fiduciary duty here that we are not doing.”

The exchange prompted the influential ORP Treasurer Dave Johnson, the District 33 member from Columbia County, to defend the GOP management.

“These charges are groundless and unsubstantiated,” said Johnson, who had branded reformers as “malcontents” in an earlier story in The Ohio Star. “We’re not here to rehash all of that.”

Paduchik told the ORP State Central Committee management had recently hired a part-time accountant to assist in restarting the books so an audit could get accomplished at a later time.

Party endorsements, incumbent support sidestepped

The reform caucus of the central committee failed to get the issues of banning primary endorsements and funding of incumbent candidates for statewide office on the agenda.

Chairman Paduchik quickly called for a vote on management’s limited agenda, effectively blocking reform supporter Joe Miller, the District 21 member from Cleveland Heights to get recognized to move for amending the agenda.

The grassroots movement wants Republican voters to choose candidates during primaries without endorsements from party insiders on the central committee.

That endorsement did not come as feared at the recent central committee meeting, but reformers expect that pre-primary to occur nevertheless during the central committee’s planned December meeting.

Those reformers also expressed outrage during that protest against $500,000 campaign contributions to DeWine and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost as well as significant in-kind office expenses the Ohio GOP has given each candidate.

“The Ohio Republican Party always asks for voters to participate,” writes Mark Pukita, a suburban Columbus businessman and reform supporter running for the GOP nomination for U.S. senator, in a text to The Star. “What that means to them is donate. That’s the only definition of participation they understand.”

In other business, the central committee approved Penny Martin, Rob Hovis and David Arredondo to fill vacancies on the panel. The committee also formally approved endorsing two Ohio Supreme Court justices for re-election in the November 2022 election and a current associate justice to vie for the chief justice seat.

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Brian R. Ball is a veteran journalist reporting for The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Send news tips to [email protected].
Photo “Ohio GOP” by Ohio Republican Party.