Democrat assails 12 years of GOP rule

Hagan: may challenge Taft.
Hagan: may challenge Taft.

COLUMBUS - The Democrat who may run against Governor Taft next year said the allegations against former state human services director Arnold Tompkins are a “scandal of one-party Republican rule for 12 years.”

Tim Hagan, a former Cuyahoga County commissioner, said Mr. Taft and former Governor Voinovich, now a U.S. senator, should be held accountable for possible criminal charges filed against Mr. Tompkins and consultant Donna Givens.

“These scandals are endemic in one-party rule. Nobody is watching. If you look at the history of Voinovich and Taft, what you find are these entrenched appointees and bureaucrats who have been there too long, know the process, and they have their own ballgames,” said Mr. Hagan.

State Inspector General Tom Charles, a Taft appointee in charge of probing corruption allegations, released a report yesterday that accused Mr. Tompkins and Ms. Givens of wrongdoing.

Mr. Tompkins was state human-services director under then-Governor Voinovich from March, 1993, to October, 1998, when he resigned. Mr. Tompkins started a consulting firm with former Voinovich aide Jacqueline Romer-Sensky.

Five months later, Mr. Taft chose Ms. Romer-Sensky as director of the human-services department. After its merger with the state Bureau of Employment Services, the department was renamed Job and Family Services.

The inspector general's report accuses Mr. Tompkins of steering large unbid contracts to Anderson Consulting, now Accenture, and American Management Systems.

“... it seems clear he was merely attempting to curry favor and guarantee future business with both Anderson and AMS,” the report said.

Within weeks of leaving his state job, Mr. Tompkins lined up consulting deals with both companies, the report says.

Although the report does not accuse Ms. Romer-Sensky of wrongdoing, it says there was an “appearance of impropriety” when she pushed for unbid contracts to Accenture and American Management Systems as state human-services director after receiving money from the two firms when she and Mr. Tompkins were partners in a consulting firm.

The report accuses Ms. Givens, who worked with Mr. Tompkins at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, of helping Accenture land lucrative unbid state contracts while she was a consultant to the state and Accenture. She now is an employee of Accenture.

On Thursday, Mr. Taft released a statement referring to the “department's inadequate management performance, some of which occurred on our watch.”

Yesterday, Democrats accused Mr. Taft of trying to push most of the blame on former governor Voinovich.

“Taft is trying to deflect as much criticism of himself as possible, but the people of Ohio will not be fooled,” said David Leland, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. “This is a Taft scandal, not only because of this report but because of his Nixonesque techniques to move the blame to others.”

But Mary Anne Sharkey, Mr. Taft's communications director, said Mr. Taft has taken several steps to tackle problems at the Department of Job and Family Services.

“We have addressed this as responsibly as we could,” she said.

It's unclear whether allegations against Mr. Tompkins and Ms. Givens could embolden other Republicans to challenge Mr. Taft for the GOP nomination next year.

On CNN's Political Insider on Thursday, conservative columnist Robert Novak said Mr. Taft is “not all that popular.”

“I checked with some Republican sources in Ohio and they say Taft is in bad shape,” Mr. Novak said on the talk show.

Mr. Novak raised the issue because of speculation that former U.S. Rep. John Kasich may run for governor next year. Mr. Kasich's former chief of staff has denied that, but Mr. Novak said: “Kasich could probably win a primary.”

GOP Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has ruled out running for governor next year, said spokesman Carlo LoParo. Mr. Blackwell came close to challenging Mr. Taft in 1998, but he bowed out to run for secretary of state.

Mr. LoParo said he didn't believe the inspector general's report that focuses on Mr. Tompkins will harm Mr. Taft's re-election next year.

“It is one person and it was discovered by the actions taken by a Republican governor who, once he found a problem in that agency, put together an excellent review team to analyze the problems and it's coming up with solutions,” Mr. LoParo said.

The scandal could be an issue if Mr. Voinovich runs for re-election in 2004, said Greg Haas, a Democratic political consultant.

Mr. Voinovich, who was governor from 1991 to 1998, was not available for comment yesterday. He issued a statement saying he was “shocked” by the inspector general's allegations against Mr. Tompkins.

Mr. Voinovich's chief of staff, Paul Mifsud, served six months in a jail work-release program in 1997-98 because he accepted a sweetheart deal on his future wife's home from a contractor who had won lucrative state contracts.

In 1998, the state declared PIE Mutual Insurance Co. insolvent. David Randall, a state deputy insurance commissioner under the Voinovich administration, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from the insurance agency and was sentenced to 75 days in jail and five years' probation.