I.G. Releases Coingate Report
The Ohio Inspector General has released the investigative report on the "Coingate" investment scandal of 2005 that resulted in the conviction of then-Governor Bob Taft and 18 other people. Randall Meyer makes no new findings in the report, which has prompted new questions. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles has details.
The Inspector General finds no new wrongdoing in this report on the scandal that involved a 50 million dollar investment with Tom Noe, a Republican operative who invested money from the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, into things like Beanie Babies and collectable coins. Noe is currently serving an 18 year prison sentence for stealing nearly five million dollars from the BWC fund. The pay-to-play culture that was uncovered in the months after the scandal broke uncovered influence peddling by the investment chiefs at the B.W. C. Lobbyists and aides were discovered to have accepted tickets to sporting events, condo stays, cash and other perks. Eventually, the scandal hit the state’s top Republican, then-Governor Bob Taft, who ended up pleading no contest to four ethics violations. Meyer’s report concentrated on Noe, but he also concluded the state has changed the way it handles investments since that time to safeguard against bad investments. And Meyer recommends the state continue to follow those new laws and policies.
But the head of Ohio’s Democratic Party, Chris Redfern, says the IG didn’t do his job.
Redfern – Randy Meyer’s investigation wasn’t to investigate the crimes of Lucas County. It was to investigate how Tom Noe came to get millions of dollars in state government or the control of it and what he did with it. We will never know the truth now because Tom Charles, and now Randy Meyer, a good Republican supported by Republican Governors George Voinovich, Bob Taft and now John Kasich has chosen to look the other way. It’s a fact that this inspector General has spent more time investigating and bringing disciplinary charges against park rangers for using out of state licenses improperly than he has investigating millions of dollars stolen that belongs to the taxpayers.
Randy Meyer, through his spokesperson, declined to comment on the report. The Ohio Republican Party’s Chris Schrimpf also declined comment. But a spokeswoman for a group that watches state government isn’t holding back. Catherine Turcer with Common Cause Ohio says she can’t understand why this report is coming a full decade after the crimes were discovered.
Turcer – There’s nothing in here that would suggest they needed years and years to get this together. And in fact, one of my favorite things in the report, was how they explain some of the individuals were not only prosecuted, found guilty, convicted, but in fact their records had already been expunged by the time this report was released.
Turcer’s group wanted to find out everyone who was involved with the scandal from the beginning but she says this report didn’t even try to answer those questions.
Turcer – It is fairly typical when government entities release these types of investigations to provide transcripts of interviews but this is not what was included. And so what we are getting is the kind of summary that we could have gotten from newspaper reports or looking at some court records. We are not getting that peak behind the curtain to what happened during the investigation.
Turcer says she’s not sure what her group will do in response to this report. But Redfern says many of the records that couldn’t be accessed before because they were part of the investigation should be available for inspection now. And issues that haven’t been answered in this report can be raised during the coming months. The real question is whether Ohioans still have an interest in Coingate one decade later.