Ruling makes board members exempt from Ohio ethics law

HRO had challenged OneOhio’s application for 501(c)(3) status

The OneOhio opioid settlement board received 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service last week, fulfilling a key part of Ohio’s opioid settlement agreement.

The IRS issued its ruling June 8, 2023, and OneOhio made the IRS’ letter available to Harm Reduction Ohio today.

Obtaining 501(c)(3) status means that government officials who serve on the 29-member OneOhio Recovery Foundation board of directors are not covered by Ohio ethics law for their opioid settlement work. They may still be covered by ethics law in some instances if they hold other jobs, such as an elective office.

Harm Reduction Ohio had challenged OneOhio application for 501(c)(3) status on the grounds that the heavy involvement of elected officials and government employees on the OneOhio board made it a “government instrumentality,” to use the language of tax law, rather than a “public charity.” The IRS determined otherwise.

The ruling has no tax consequences for OneOhio because both charities and governments are exempt for paying taxes. Freeing OneOhio board members from Ohio ethics law is the primary advantage of the decision, along with fulfilling a requirement of the settlement agreement.

Ohio will receive about $2 billion in opioid settlement payments over the next 18 years. The tax-exempt OneOhio foundation will oversee 55% of that money. The other 45% will go directly to state and local governments.

Congratulations to OneOhio.

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