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Published: Wednesday, 1/29/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

The Blade sues Ohio inspector general

Lawsuit calls for release of report on Tom Noe 'Coingate' scandal nine years after the investigation was launched

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Tom Noe Tom Noe
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH Enlarge

COLUMBUS—The Blade today sued to force the Ohio inspector general to publicly release his report of the so-called Coingate scandal nine years after the investigation was launched.

The lawsuit, filed in the Ohio Supreme Court, noted it’s been two years since Inspector General Randall J. Meyer’s office reversed position and announced it would complete the report after initially saying it would not. It also notes that annual reports issued in recent years by the office have stopped mentioning any ongoing investigation of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

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In December 2008, former Toledo area coin dealer Tom Noe, 59, now “Inmate A589407,” began serving an 18-year sentence for stealing $13 million from a $50 million rare-coin and collectibles investment fund he operated for the state-run insurance fund for injured workers.

“There can be no doubt that (the inspector general’s) investigation of the Noe-related investments and ancillary matters is now complete and that it has been complete for the past several years,” reads the lawsuit filed on behalf of The Blade by Toledo attorney Fritz Byers.

“Nor can there be any doubt that (the inspector general’s office has) failed to ‘prepare a detailed report’ of the investigation as required by (state law),” the suit reads.

Noe, a former Lucas County Republican Party chairman, is incarcerated at the Southeastern Correctional Complex in Lancaster, Ohio, on theft and other convictions from 2006 related to the BWC investments. He previously served two years in federal prison for illegally laundering campaign contributions through several notable area Republicans to the 2004 re-election campaign of then-President George W. Bush.

Noe continues to try to overturn his state conviction with his latest appeal in U.S. District Court in Akron.

The lawsuit notes that, in February, 2012, Mr. Meyer’s office indicated no final report would be issued because no one directly involved in the investigation was left in the office to write it. The office also indicated any court proceedings related to the investigation had come to an end.

The inspector general at the time of the investigation was Tom Charles, who in 2011 became Gov. John Kasich’s director of public safety. He is now working with JobsOhio, the private, non-profit economic development corporation.

Soon after indicating it would not issue a Coingate report, Mr. Charles’ successor, Mr. Meyer, reversed position in 2012 and said it would complete and release the report after all. Two years later it remains quiet as to when that will happen.

The Blade submitted a public records request on Thursday for the final report as well as a legally mandated “fiduciary review” of the BWC investments referred to in the inspector general’s 2006 annual report.

The suit contends these reports are public records, and, if they have not yet been completed, the office is in violation of its legal duty.

It asks the high court to order the release of the documents or, in the alternative, to order the office to complete the reports and then make them publicly available.

There were 19 criminal convictions associated with the scandal, which stemmed from The Blade’s investigation in 2004 and 2005 of fraud, mismanagement, and influence peddling within the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, the governor's office, and state government. Then Gov. Bob Taft in 2005 became the first sitting Ohio governor to be convicted of a crime when he pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor ethics violations for failing to report gifts, including Noe-related golf outings.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.


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