Representatives of Israel Bonds maintain frequent and close contact with Franklin County Treasurer Cheryl Brooks Sullivan and members of her staff, according to emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Columbus Free Press.

This relationship has proven quite lucrative for Israel Bonds. Franklin County currently holds at least $33 million in Israeli debt, at interest rates ranging from 1.2 percent to 5.74 percent.

Israel Bonds is the common name for the Development Corporation of Israel, the US company that manages the sale of debt securities for the state of Israel.

Members of its regional office based in the Cleveland area are on a first name basis with the staff of the Franklin County Treasurer’s office. In addition, recent reports indicate a close personal relationship between Treasurer Brooks Sullivan and Israel Bonds investment staff.

This apparently extends to personal social media accounts. Treasurer Brooks Sullivan and Kathe Turial, regional representative for the Development Corporation for Israel, have exchanged frequent comments on Facebook since at least 2018, liking and commenting on each other's public photos and posts. “Never takes a bad photo,” as Turial commented on a 2019 headshot of Treasurer Brooks Sullivan. The two evidently enjoy a close and genuine friendship, commenting on family events and life milestones and referencing times spent together fondly.

Back at the office, an analysis of emails between staff at the treasurer’s office and representatives of Israel Bonds reveals a consistent pattern in which Israel Bonds representatives initiate frequent and persistent communication with the county when one of its bond holdings nears maturity. Israel Bonds seeks reinvestment of the bond principal in the form of new bond purchases. Invariably, they get what they ask for from the county treasurer.

For example, Israel Bonds representative Kathe Turiel emailed the county investment office on January 12, 2023 to inform the county that a $4 million bond it held would be reaching maturity on February 1. Over the subsequent 2 weeks, Turiel emailed a representative of the county no less than 15 times seeking to secure the county’s reinvestment. The emails indicate that multiple phone calls were also held between county representatives and Israel Bonds.

Representatives of the county appeared disorganized in their contacts with Israel Bonds, missing or struggling to schedule meetings and rushing to meet the reinvestment deadline. At one point, Franklin County seems to have reached out to Turiel for records on how much of Franklin County’s money was invested in Israel Bonds. It is not clear why Franklin County did not have internal records of its own investments readily available.

“Per your request, below is a list of maturity rates, bonds held and interest [rates],” Turiel replied. A list of bond holdings was copied in the email.

Our investigation into the county's holdings in Israel bonds revealed the investments seen in the chart at the end of this article.

Nowhere in the emails obtained in this investigation is there any evidence of the county’s investment rationale. There is no debate over interest rates or other terms, and no evidence of negotiation with Israel Bonds.

In every case we obtained, it appears that Israel Bonds hounded the county with repeated contacts as deadlines neared. Once the county responded, Israel bonds spared no effort to be as accommodating as possible to beleaguered and disorganized county workers, and to make reinvestment the easiest and simplest possible investment option.

These records indicate that Franklin County holds a $1 million bond in Israeli debt which is scheduled to mature on April 1, 2024. If past history is any indication, the county treasurer’s office is likely in the midst of arranging for reinvestment of this holding within a matter of days.

Itemized records of the county’s foreign investments are no longer reported in the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report, however investments in the state of Israel would appear to account for the overwhelming majority of the county’s foreign bond holdings.

As reported in Columbus Free Press, as well as the Columbus Jewish News, Franklin County recently made a substantial increase in the size of its investment in Israeli debt by purchasing an additional $8 million in securities after the start of the current genocidal war in Gaza.

An Offering Circular, a formal document similar to a prospectus describing the terms of a security holding, was attached to November 2023 emails between Franklin County and Israel Bonds. It appears to indicate that no restrictions have been placed on the use of bond proceeds:  “Israel will use the net proceeds from the sale of the bonds offered hereby for general purposes of the State.”

Emails obtained by Columbus Free Press through a FOIA request show that Turiel offered Treasurer Brooks Sullivan the opportunity to review press coverage of the county’s new $8 million bond purchase prior to publication, to which Brooks Sullivan responded “As always in continued solidarity please consider this my confirmation [to go forward with publication].”