COLUMBUS DISPATCH Enlarge
The office of Ohio’s inspector general — the supposed watchdog of state government — committed itself two years ago to producing an investigative report on the antics of Tom Noe, the former chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party who was convicted of stealing $13 million from the state Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in the late 1990s and early 2000s. There still is no report.
The stonewalling and foot-dragging must end. Ohio taxpayers and voters deserve to see a full and final report on the Noe scandal — and the documents and other investigative records on which it is based — without further delay.
Noe remains in a state prison, properly, despite continued appeals. It still isn’t clear, more than five years after he started serving his 18-year sentence, how widespread was the involvement of other state officials and Republican leaders in his looting, and how high up that participation extended.
The time for such answers is long past due. But the official report on “Coingate” — the bizarre investment of $50 million in rare coins and other collectibles that Noe managed, using state-administered money intended to help workers injured on the job — has yet to emerge. The inspector general’s office refuses to discuss the status of the Noe report or identify a date for its release.
The Coingate scandal, first exposed in investigative reports by The Blade, is not ancient history, despite the efforts of Noe’s apologists to portray it as such. Noe’s influence on state government and politics was broad.
He sat on the Ohio Board of Regents, which sets higher education policy, and the state Turnpike Commission. He was a prominent Republican fund-raiser who served a two-year federal sentence for money-laundering activities related to the 2004 re-election campaign of President George W. Bush.
The Coingate scandal included a no-contest plea by then-Gov. Bob Taft to misdemeanor ethics violations. It also led to a near election wipeout, since reversed, for the Ohio Republican Party.
The continued fallout from the Noe scandal must be addressed with corrective legislation and new oversight rules. But that is more likely to happen once the Noe report is pried loose.
If the investigation still isn’t done, the inspector general needs to wrap it up promptly. If the report is done, it needs to be released now. Otherwise, the question inevitably arises: What is the state trying to cover up?
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