>The Ohio Department of Development (according to its own website) works to attract, create, grow, and retain businesses through competitive incentives and meaningful, targeted investments. These efforts however apparently failed to help Dayton retain its only Fortune 500 company. So what was going on with the Ohio Department of Development in the crucial final months before NCR left?
Until February 17, 2009, Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher served as director of the Department of Development. On February 17, Fisher resigned as director noting
“It’s not fair to the state or the governor … I can’t do justice to the work of development director because managing the department is a full-time job.” That same day, Fisher announced his candidacy
for the senate seat being made available by the retirement of George Voinovich.
Following Fisher’s resignation, Governor Ted Strickland appointed Mark Barbash as the interim director. Barbash would end up serving less than three months before revelations about serious tax problems. According to the I.R.S., Barbash owes nearly $150,000 in back taxes, penalties, and interest. The Ohio Department of Taxation also has a tax lien over $12,000. And a foreclosure was filed against Barbash’s Bexley home just prior to his resignation (all despite Barbash receiving an annual salary of $128,356). And even after the resignation, Barbash was offered his old position as chief economic development officer.
When questioned about the naming of Barbash as director, Governor Strickland made these incredible admissions to the Columbus Dispatch
Gov. Ted Strickland said yesterday that he probably would have appointed Mark Barbash interim director of the state development department even if he had known that Barbash owes nearly $160,000 in federal and state taxes.
On May 15, 2009, 44-year-old Lisa Patt-McDaniel took over as successor interim director for Barbash. Two weeks later, NCR announced that it was moving its headquarters out of Dayton.
Could Lee Fisher have kept NCR in Dayton? Maybe – but he gave up his director position out of ambition to become a senator. Was Barbash the best appointment? Certainly not. And what was he doing during the critical three months when he served as interim director? Is it possible that he was distracted by the foreclosure and six-figure tax liens that dropped during his short tenure?
It is impossible to know if the outcome on NCR could have been different. But the chaos, questionable appointment, and musical chairs in leadership at the ODOD could not have helped.