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Published: Wednesday, 2/8/2006

Panelist seeks 2nd term overseeing BWC

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU
Mary Beth Carroll, center, is expected to be confirmed today by the full Senate to a second term on the BWC oversight panel. Mary Beth Carroll, center, is expected to be confirmed today by the full Senate to a second term on the BWC oversight panel.
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COLUMBUS - A member of the panel overseeing the embattled Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation told a Senate committee yesterday that now is not the time for her to leave or for the state to shift direction by changing the system to private operation.

The subject of a rare confirmation hearing, Mary Beth Carroll of Akron won unanimous approval of the Senate Insurance, Commerce, and Labor Committee for a second three-year term on the bureau's oversight commission. She is expected to be confirmed today by the full Senate.

Ms. Carroll, a vice president of FirstEnergy Corp. and a former Sandusky city commissioner, represents roughly 1,100 large employers who are self-insured.

The self-insured largely do not pay premiums into the state insurance fund, but they are subject to workers' compensation rules and judgments.

"[Private operation] is something that we need to keep in mind," she said. "Yet, with the major transitions that are in place, with a new administrator, three new members at the table, a new chief legal officer, and with the board working on things that need to be fixed, now is not the time to go on a new path."

She said the idea of privatization could be resurrected once current investigations are over. Ohio is one of just five states with a state monopoly on workers' compensation insurance.

Gubernatorial appointments to state boards and commissions are usually approved routinely in the Senate without hearings.

But that changed for BWC appointments following revelations by The Blade that the bureau invested $50 million in rare-coin funds operated by former GOP fund-raiser Tom Noe and lost $215 million in a risky offshore hedge fund managed by Pittsburgh-based MDL Capital Management.

"This is not the time to leave," Ms. Carroll said. "In short, I want to be part of the solution, to apply my experience and perspective in ways that will help bring about positive changes at BWC in areas that were weak."

She said recent changes made by the commission and the General Assembly to limit the types of investments the bureau can make and add investment expertise to the commission will "build a better BWC."

Although Democrats voted in committee to recommend her confirmation, state Sen. Ray Miller (D., Columbus) questioned how willing she would be to ask tough questions when it's politically inconvenient.

"You're a Republican in a Republican administration," he said.

"Sometimes people might feel that they need to be supportive of the party."

Ms. Carroll has contributed to a number of Republican campaigns, according to the Ohio secretary of state's database. She has contributed a total of $600 to Gov. Bob Taft over the last decade.

"When we sit at the table on the oversight commission, my job is to be one of a group with the best interests of employers and workers, not because of a partisan relationship, not because of anything behind me," she said.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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