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Published: 2/11/2014

State's top court refers lawsuit against inspector general to mediation

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court today referred to mediation The Toledo Blade’s lawsuit to force the Ohio Inspector General to release his final report on the 9-year-old Coingate scandal.

The move, not unusual in public records cases, is designed to give the two sides a chance to work out a solution before the case makes it into the courtroom.

The normal process of filing briefs in the case has been placed on hold in the meantime. Inspector General Randall Meyer’s office had not filed its reply to the lawsuit before the mediation order was issued.

RELATED CONTENT: The Coingate Scandal

Late last month, The Blade sued as a follow-up to its request for public records in the case, particularly release of a final report of the investigation into former Toledo area coin dealer Tom Noe and his theft of $13 million from a $50 million investment he operated on behalf of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

In the event the report has not been completed, as Mr. Meyer’s office has maintained, the suit asks the high court to order the report’s completion in compliance with state law mandating such a report.

Two years ago, the inspector general’s office said it would not issue the report because no one was left in the office who was directly involved in the investigation. The office soon reversed position and said it would release the report after all, but added it would not comment on it again until it was released.

In its recent response denying The Blade’s public records request related to the report, James Manken, chief legal counsel for Mr. Meyer, said the records are “related to an ongoing investigation.”

In its lawsuit, The Blade argues that the office’s prior position that no one connected to the investigation was still in the office and the disappearance of references to the investigation in the office’s annual reports indicate that the investigation is over.

The office did release a requested fiduciary review of BWC investment practices that an independent firm completed for the inspector general’s office in 2006.

Noe, 59, a former Lucas County Republican Party chairman, began serving an 18-year state sentence for stealing $13 million from the rare-coin and collectibles fund he managed for the state-run insurance fund for injured workers.

Before that, he served two years in federal prison for laundering campaign contributions through several notable local Republicans to the 2004 re-election campaign of then President George W. Bush.



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