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BWC PROBE Dann files 2nd suit over coin scandal Senator wants reports to be open to public



Published: Thu, July 7, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The senator says the information should be used to guide policy changes.

By MICHELE C. HLADIK

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- State Sen. Marc Dann says he is prepared to poke, prod and sue Gov. Bob Taft's office to "get to the bottom" of the controversial coin issue that has plagued the Bureau of Workers' Compensation for several months.

The Liberty Township Democrat filed a second lawsuit Wednesday with the Ohio Supreme Court in an attempt to force Taft's office to open to the public weekly reports between Taft's office and former BWC Director Jim Conrad.

Dann said he would like to see the weekly reports between Jim Samuels, Taft's former executive assistant, and Conrad dating back to 1998.

"I think we need to get more information and find out what happened," Dann said. "I think I'm entitled to them, and they're not giving them."

He said he believes that the records should be made available to all Ohioans who request them.

Dann said no one should have to sue to get these records, but he is willing to do so to "stop the stonewalling and get to the bottom of things."

He said he hopes both the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House of Representatives will be able to use the information to determine what policy changes are necessary and what system of checks and balances is needed.

Democratic duty

"We have a duty to the people of Ohio," Dann said.

According to Dann, Democrats in both the House and Senate want to investigate the matter further, but Republican leaders are unwilling. He added the Democrats are willing to investigate on their own but welcome input from House and Senate Republicans.

Taft's office rejected Dann's request on the basis of executive privilege.

"Executive privilege and deliberative process privileges are based in common law," wrote Elizabeth Luper Schuster, Taft's chief legal counsel, in a letter to Dann.

"Federal courts have repeatedly recognized the need for these privileges because they protect communication between government officials and those who assist them in the performance of their duties."

According to Taft spokesman Mark Rickel, his office learned of the suit Wednesday through a press conference given by Dann.

In May, Dann filed a suit with the high court to force the bureau to release an inventory of its controversial $50 million investment in rare coins, along with details on from whom the coins were acquired.

Dann had reportedly asked the bureau for the inventory records in April under the state's open records law.

Trade secret

However, the bureau declined to provide the inventory, as well as records identifying individuals from whom the coins were acquired. The bureau said the inventory was a trade secret, exempting it from open records laws.

That matter has since been settled, Dann said.

According to Dann, Taft's office has 20 days from date of service to file a response to the current suit with the Supreme Court.

Taft's office and legal counsel are reviewing the suit, according to Rickel.




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