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Published: Thursday, 4/20/2006

Ohio Democratic leaders want Taft papers released

BY STEVE EDER AND JAMES DREW
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

COLUMBUS - Ohio Democratic leaders yesterday announced an online petition drive calling on Gov. Bob Taft to release documents related to the state's investment scandal.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled last week that the governor had a limited power to keep some of his records private, meaning some documents in Mr. Taft's office could be exempt from the state's open records law. Last June, state Sen. Marc Dann sued Mr. Taft, charging that he failed to make public weekly reports that could shed light on the state's failed $50 million rare-coin fund.

Now that the court has ruled, Mr. Dann, a Democrat from suburban Youngstown and a candidate for attorney general, will have an opportunity to show the court that there is a "particularized need" for the public to review complete versions of the governor's weekly reports.

Ohio Democratic Party and Mr. Dann said they kicked-off the petition drive because they believe Mr. Taft should release complete copies of his weekly reports, rather than perpetuate a "Nixonlike cover-up." The Supreme Court has given Mr. Taft 15 days to explain why the documents should remain secret and then Mr. Dann will have 15 days to tell the court why they should be public.

"Rather than go through a prolonged court fight, wouldn't it be good for the governor to just come clean?" said Brian Rothenberg, a spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party. "At some point the state of Ohio could lift itself out of this cloud of corruption by the governor just voluntarily releasing his records. If there is nothing that he his hiding, what's the problem?"

Last night, the online petition drive, conducted through ipetitions.com, had collected more than 100 signatures.

Mark Rickel, a spokesman for Mr. Taft, said the governor has already released the information in the weekly reports related to the investment scandal at the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation. He said unrelated information contained in the reports was blacked out because it was privileged.

"Back at the time, there is personnel information, legislative strategies, economic development projects - those are the items that were redacted. All of the information that was related to the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation that was contained in those weekly reports was released."

Mr. Dann, who will face Subodh Chandra in the May 2 Democratic primary for attorney general, said the governor should put an end to the controversy by releasing the documents.

"I can't imagine what is there that is so horrible that he doesn't want to release," Mr. Dann said. "What would be his incentive? Certainly he doesn't want to leave this as his legacy, this idea that he, a governor, can operate in the dark."

Contact Steve Eder at:

seder@theblade.com

or 419-724-6272.



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