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Published: Friday, 1/1/2010

New Ohio patrol boss set to start after rocky selection

ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS - Ohio's new highway patrol superintendent begins his job Monday after a selection process that at times grew bitter.

Records show powerful state law enforcement interests at odds over the selection of the leader of the patrol and its 1,500 troopers.

Capt. David Dicken was chosen last week over contenders that included patrol veterans as well as inexperienced civilian applicants boasting their lack of political ties.

Records show Captain Dicken, 48, was endorsed by Ohio State Troopers Association president Larry Phillips, who initially served on the selection committee but was removed after the endorsement surfaced.

Committee chairman Larry James said Captain Dicken emerged on top because he impressed the panel with deep knowledge of the agency and a detailed plan for the future.

As executive officer of finance and logistics services, Captain Dicken was seen as having the skills to handle the state's tough budget climate.

In an interview yesterday, Public Safety Director Cathy Collins-Taylor and Mr. James, an attorney and former city safety director in Columbus, defended the process as thorough and fair.

"I think you just had a lot of noise," Mr. James said. "Talking to the director, this was a pretty smooth, really orderly process."

Ms. Collins-Taylor said she is proud of how the selection was handled. She described the process as including interviews with both external and internal candidates and consultations with the department's rank-and-file.

"We've never had a process like this before," she said. "In the past, the director simply picked the superintendent."

Confidentiality agreements signed by panelists kept many of the records from earlier public view.

Ms. Collins-Taylor said the much-criticized agreements helped panelists maintain their objectivity.

"I really tried to keep it unbiased, fair, and impartial - though not everyone viewed it that way," she said.

Critics say the fact a superintendent with the union president's backing was chosen showed the selection was biased toward labor.

Ms. Collins-Taylor's husband, Michael Taylor, is a lobbyist for the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, the state's largest law enforcement union.

Mr. James is legal counsel to the national FOP.

She said it wasn't favoritism so much as representation - noting that 75 percent of the patrol is unionized.

"I felt it was important to have the union be part of the process," she said.

State inspector general Tom Charles had investigated and reprimanded Captain Dicken last summer for shredding financial records for an office activities fund he helped oversee.

Mr. Charles' wife, Bridgette, was among the 11 finalists interviewed for the superintendent job.

Captain Dicken said yesterday that the man who previously oversaw the office fund instructed him to shred the papers.



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