Governments — including Hamilton, Liberty Twp. — disclose spending online

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel on Thursday announced that 114 local jurisdictions, including four in Butler County, are uploading their expenditures to OhioCheckbook.com.

In a carefully orchestrated press conference, Mandel stood with local officials from across the state to trumpet the online records search tool and pledged to push public universities and colleges, pension systems and more of the 3,900 local governments to join the effort.

Mandel, a Republican in his second term, launched OhioCheckbook.com in December 2014 with seven years of state expenditures. Since then the site has drawn more than 330,000 searches. Mandel said he believes adding local finances will drive even more interest and searches.

Mandel said the search tool empowers citizens to hold government officials accountable. And state Rep. Kevin Boyce, D-Columbus, whom Mandel ousted from the treasurer’s office in the 2010 election, praised OhioCheckbook.com as a building block to ethical government.

OhioCheckbook.com has Google-like searching that is easy, intuitive and quick. It allows searchers to find granular and aggregate data, download information into spreadsheets or portable documents, and share the information via social media.

Liberty Twp. was the first in Butler County to commit to posting the township’s checkbook online.

Now included on OhioCheckbook.com are:

“It really is like viewing your own checkbook online — easy to use and understand,” Liberty Twp. Fiscal Officer Pamela Quinlisk said in July when the township announced it would post its expenditures online.

Liberty Twp. Trustee Christine Matacic said in July that the tool will “empower” people by showcasing these communities’ spending habits.

The state paid a one-time $975,000 licensing fee for the system and pays an annual maintenance fee of $400,00 to $975,000, depending on the number of jurisdictions that participate, according to Mandel’s office.

Mandel said he is hopeful universities will add their data by the end of the year but he chastised public pension systems for making excuses for why they haven’t committed to participating.

“Don’t tell me how choppy the waters are, just bring the ship home,” he said. “We are going to stay vigilant. We’re going to be tenacious. And we’re going to get those finances online.”

Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Jake Strassberger, however, criticized Mandel for failing to adequately respond to the party’s request for records detailing the exact cost of the OhioCheckbook.com project.

“ The fact that he refuses to reply to a request about the costs of his transparency website makes clear that his tough talk on transparency has always been more focused on grabbing headlines than making government more transparent,” Strassberger said.

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