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INVESTMENT SCANDAL Developments



Published: Sat, August 6, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Developments Friday in Ohio's ongoing investment scandal:

Gov. Bob Taft's office said Taft sent a handwritten note of encouragement to former chief of staff Brian Hicks, convicted last week of failing to report vacation stays with GOP contributor Tom Noe in 2002 and 2003.

"The governor knows Brian has been through a difficult time and wanted Brian to know he's been thinking about him," said spokesman Mark Rickel.

Rickel said the office doesn't have a copy of the note. A message was left with Hicks seeking comment.

Taft, a Republican, is under investigation for his admission that he failed to disclose several golf outings during his administration.

Taft said he'll continue to fight to keep private weekly reports sent by his top aides. The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday denied Taft's request to dismiss a Democratic state senator's lawsuit against him over access to the records.

State Sen. Marc Dann filed a lawsuit July 6 seeking several years of weekly memos between Taft's office and the Bureau of Workers' Compensation. Taft released hundreds of pages of reports late last month, but Dann said some of the weekly reports from top officials at the embattled state insurance fund for injured workers were at least partially blacked out.

"The governor continues to believe communications between his cabinet and senior staff are protected by executive privilege," Rickel said Friday. "He's prepared to defend that in court."

The Bureau of Workers' Compensation fired another investment manager for poor performance.

The bureau said the current value for the Putnam International Core Equity product is $237 million, above the bureau's investment of $200 million but below benchmarks set by a leading index for such funds.

The fund's management team also has changed significantly since it was hired in 2001 and the bureau should not assume risks from such turnaround, according to Ennis Knupp + Associates, consultants reviewing the bureau's investments.

Putnam is "disappointed by their decision," said spokeswoman Nancy Fisher. "Our top priority continues to be managing the money that's been placed in our care."

Attorney General Jim Petro told the Ohio Supreme Court he is complying with the court's order to make records of Noe's business dealings public. In a court document, Petro says his office has provided 16 boxes of business records and continues to review nearly 500,000 pages of documents made available by the state Inspector General's office.

Acting on a request by The Blade of Toledo, the Supreme Court on July 13 ordered Petro to release transaction and business records from Tom Noe's now-closed coin funds.

Source: AP Research




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