COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An information technology executive with ties to then-Gov. John Kasich's administration worked to improperly steer millions in state contracts to his private company, the Ohio state watchdog reported Thursday.
Inspector General Randall Meyer's investigation determined Rex Plouck, a one-time Department of Administrative Services contractor, worked with the agency's deputy director to steer as much as $9 million worth of state business to Advocate Solutions LLC, where he had become CEO.
Plouck's wife, Tracy, served as Kasich's director of mental health and addiction services.
The investigation found Rex Plouck misused his assigned state email account to secure state business after the deputy administrative services director, Devin Mehta, would tip him off to contracts available at Mehta's agency and the Governor's Office of Health Transformation.
In her capacity as a Cabinet director, Tracy Plouck was an executive stakeholder in Kasich's health transformation initiative. Messages were left at her Ohio University office and with Advocate Solutions seeking comment.
The Ploucks' investment of $20,000 in Advocate Solutions, revealed during a series of watchdog investigations into Department of Administrative Services IT contracting practices, sparked Meyer's latest probe. Investigators discovered the contract steering after questioning the investment. The state agency's questionable contracting practices were brought to light by a Columbus Dispatch investigation.
The Department of Administrative Services' response to the findings is not yet available.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who succeeded Kasich in January, said he has directed the agency's current head to find out what the lessons learned are.
“(In) any administration, things are going to happen, but the real challenge I think is to make sure you learn from those mistakes,” he told reporters Friday.