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Published: Friday, 6/30/2006

Taft refuses to say why ousted BWC exec kept 2nd post for months

BY STEVE EDER AND JAMES DREW
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

BOWLING GREEN Gov. Bob Taft refused to answer questions yesterday about his 2003 appointment of Terrence Gasper, the former financial chief of the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, to a state venture board that oversees a multimillion-dollar investment fund.

The Blade reported yesterday that Gasper who pleaded guilty to felony corruption charges earlier this month in connection with his bureau position continued to serve on the Ohio Venture Capital Authority for eight months after Taft administration officials forced him to resign in October, 2004, as the bureau s chief financial officer amid $215 million in losses in a risky hedge fund with MDL Capital Management.

The governor s spokesman, Mark Rickel, who accompanied Mr. Taft during a visit to Bowling Green yesterday, said the fact that Gasper remained on the authority after his forced resignation from the bureau was simply an oversight by the governor s office. Mr. Rickel also said the governor was notified that Gasper resigned from the bureau because he entered into an unauthorized investment.

Gasper resigned from the venture capital authority on June 6, 2005, one day before the bureau made public its hedge-fund losses which had not been revealed for eight months. Mr. Rickel said the governor s office was alerted by someone in the Department of Development that Gasper continued to serve on the investment authority in June, 2005.

We said, OK, we want his resignation, and we got it, Mr. Rickel said.

In November, 2003, Gasper and six others were appointed to the authority, which oversees a fund that invests in venture capital firms with interests in start-up companies.

Mr. Rickel said it was unclear who recommended Gasper for the appointment.

You look at Gasper s resume and you see someone who from the outside, you would see that he was a very effective investment manager, Mr. Rickel said, adding that the governor reviews all appointments with his chief of staff, Jon Allison. Mr. Allison wasn t available for comment.

Gasper, who pleaded guilty to charges that he accepted bribes in exchange for the bureau s investment business including a $25,000 check from former GOP fund-raiser Tom Noe is cooperating with a task force investigating corruption in the agency s investment department. He has not been sentenced.

Mr. Rickel said the governor s office has not heard of Gasper doing anything wrong during his tenure on the Ohio Venture Capital Authority but has asked legal counsel at the Department of Development to review the matter.

And obviously if they were to uncover anything, we would expect them to immediately turn it over to the task force, said Mr. Rickel, referring to the federal and state investigators probing the bureau s investment practices.

John Barron, chief legal counsel for the Department of Development, did not return a message seeking comment.

State Sen. Marc Dann, a Youngstown-area Democrat and the Democratic nominee for attorney general, submitted a public records request yesterday to the governor s office seeking any documents relating to Mr. Gasper s appointment to the board.

Mr. Dann said that in addition to what happened leading to Gasper s appointment to the Venture Capital Authority board, he has questions about why the governor s office allowed Gasper to remain on the board for eight months after his forced resignation from the bureau in early October, 2004.

This is beyond shameful; it is pathetic, said Mr. Dann, who submitted a letter to Mr. Taft.

The governor wouldn t answer questions about the appointment yesterday morning in Bowling Green, saying he had not read the report in The Blade.

Asked if he would be available for questions later in the day, Mr. Taft said: We ll answer all your questions as soon as I read the story, Mr. Taft said.

I don t want to answer questions until I ve read the story because I want to be fair to the story, the governor said. I m sure it s an excellent story.

Mr. Taft was not available for comment later yesterday.

Contact Steve Eder at: seder@theblade.com or 419-724-6272.



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