The man who wants to be Ohio’s next governor, along with the chairman of the state Democratic Party, this week called for the resignation of Inspector General Randall Meyer over what they called his office’s “botched” final report into the Coingate scandal.
Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County executive, and party Chairman Chris Redfern also called for the appointment of an independent counsel to examine everything associated with the investigation of what Mr. Redfern called “perhaps the most important scandal in the last 40 years.”
“After years of Republican inspectors general making excuses and promising answers ... we were disappointed to see nothing more than a compilation of already released stories, almost a decade ago, compiled by other governmental agencies,” Mr. Redfern said.
Mr. Meyer’s office is expected to make more changes to the report to incorporate information on at least two people whose criminal records were intentionally omitted from the report because the office mistakenly believed they’d been expunged.
Among the missing names were former Republican Gov. Bob Taft and his former aide, Douglas Moormann, both of whom pleaded to misdemeanor ethics violations of failing to report gifts from Tom Noe, the Toledo-area coin dealer and convicted thief at the center of the investigation.
It would mark the second time that the office will have changed its report. The office on Friday quietly had removed a reference to Bernadette Restivo, Mr. Noe’s ex-wife, who apparently had been listed in error among those against whom judgments had been received by the state.
“The governor got it wrong from the beginning when he handpicked a partisan political supporter to be Ohio’s inspector general, and he should now demand IG Meyer’s resignation,” said Mr. FitzGerald, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in Tuesday’s primary election.
“The botched Coingate report is just the latest in a long string of embarrassing actions by the inspector general, and the governor should hold him responsible for his gross incompetence,” he said.
A spokesman for Mr. Meyer’s office, Carl Enslen, said there will be no resignation.
“It will not be happening,” he said. He declined to comment further, citing The Blade’s pending lawsuit trying to force the release of all public records associated with the investigation. That lawsuit is in mediation.
Noe is serving a state prison sentence for stealing $13.7 million from a $50 million investment in rare coins and collectibles he administered on behalf of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
The multiagency investigation broadened from there to examine influence-peddling within the BWC and state government.
In all, 19 criminal convictions were associated with the scandal and a federal investigation into Noe’s use of conduits to funnel illegal campaign contributions to then-President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign.
“Taking advice from Ed FitzGerald on this issue would be like taking advice from the coyote on how to care for your pet roadrunner,” said Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf. “FitzGerald uses Cuyahoga County’s IG as an extension of his personal staff and also as his campaign’s personal attorney.
“It’s time for FitzGerald to come clean about how much work the county’s inspector general has done for his campaign, and how much it has cost taxpayers,” Mr. Schrimpf said.
The local inspector general checks contributions to Mr. FitzGerald’s campaign to ensure they don’t violate a local ethics rule preventing him from receiving money from county employees and appointees.
Mr. Taft and his attorney on Tuesday said reports that his record in Franklin County Municipal Court had been expunged were not true, adding that the governor has no intention of seeking a sealing of the record.
State Rep. Connie Pillich (D., Cincinnati), candidate for state treasurer, has introduced a bill calling for an inspector general to be appointed through a bipartisan commission to ensure independence.
By Jim Provance - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)
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