COLUMBUS - Ohio Treasurer Joe Deters - between chants of “safety, safety, safety” - has attempted to use the 1995 implosion of a $115 million investment fund in Cuyahoga County to suggest his opponent might be careless with taxpayers' money.
The Secured Assets Fund Earnings Program, a county-run pooled investment account for local governments, collapsed under poor investment decisions by the elected county treasurer while Democrats Mary Boyle and Tim Hagan and Republican Jim Petro were county commissioners.
Mrs. Boyle served on the county's investment oversight board at the time. With a background in chemistry and politics, not finance, she has attempted to turn Mr. Deters' criticism around to argue that the SAFE fiasco has made her more qualified to be the state's top banker and investor.
“I can read the signs of trouble, and I can also understand how elected officials can be tempted potentially to make decisions that may not turn out to be in the best interest of the taxpayers,” she said.
Tom Hayes, a Democrat serving as Republican Gov. Bob Taft's director of the Department of Job and Family Services, implemented the commissioners' plan as county administrator to meet the county's guarantee of the investment of the local governments.
“They took immediate action by cutting 11 percent from budgets across the board and were able to recover our bond rating within nine months,” he said. “They were able to recover the county's financial position in a year. The three of them acted decisively and worked with other elected officials.”
Before the recent stock market losses of the state's pension funds, SAFE marked the biggest public investment debacle in Ohio history.
“SAFE was the biggest challenge financially for the county,” said Mr. Hagan, now a Democratic gubernatorial candidate. “She handled that with great expertise and commitment. All three of us had to make some tough decisions.”
- JIM PROVANCE