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Published: Wednesday, 5/26/2010

Senate rejects safety-chief pick

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - Gov. Ted Strickland is looking for a new public safety director after the Republican-controlled Senate Tuesday dealt him a defeat in rejecting his appointee to the post because of her role in an aborted sting at his mansion.

Three GOP senators broke ranks with their party to support the confirmation of Cathy Collins-Taylor, but she came up two votes shy of the 17 needed. The 30-year law enforcement veteran is now headed to the Ohio Parole Board.

"Cathy is a good and decent and honest person," the Democratic governor said. "She has served Ohioans honorably and humbly.I think she is the victim of a political situation that only occurred because of her association with my administration.She deserved better than this."

What is usually a routine confirmation of a gubernatorial appointee became embroiled in controversy over a January decision to call off a sting to catch the wife of a prison inmate dropping contraband on the grounds of the Governor's Residence.

The Pickaway Correctional Institution inmate working there as part of a rehabilitation program apparently planned to smuggle it back to prison.

Inspector General Tom Charles concluded that Ms. Collins-Taylor lied under oath when she said Ohio Highway Patrol Superintendent David Dicken made the call to halt the sting and that the decision was made to protect the safety of the governor and his security detail rather than to prevent "embarrassment to the boss."

"This is about politics," said Sen. Shirley Smith (D., Cleveland). "This is about elections in November. This is about 30-second ads. It's about destroying somebody's career."

The Republican majority agreed that it was indeed politics, but not the kind Ms. Smith spoke of.

"It's about politics interfering in law enforcement," Sen. Jimmy Stewart (R., Athens) said. "That's why we're having this debate … The political meddling is not limited to Cathy Collins-Taylor. It goes all the way to Governor Strickland himself."

Sen. Kevin Coughlin (R., Cuyahoga Falls) cast one of the three Republican votes in favor of confirmation. "After reading the inspector general's report and going back and reading e-mails and statements, I cannot come to the conclusion that she did [lie], certainly not for the purpose of misleading the investigation," he said.

A dispute lingers over whether the contraband would have been drugs, as members of the patrol suspected, or tobacco, as the Strickland administration has contended.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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