Gov. Taft combats senator's requests
Dann wants to know when the governor knew about investment losses.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- In a lawsuit seeking access to records related to a state investment scandal, Gov. Bob Taft is asking the state's highest court to prevent depositions of himself and other former and current state officials.
Lawyers representing Taft, a Republican, filed a motion with the Ohio Supreme Court late Thursday to prevent depositions of Taft; Jon Allison, Taft's chief of staff; James Samuels, a former Taft executive assistant; Mark Nedved, a Bureau of Workers' Compensation employee; James Conrad, the former BWC administrator; and Brian Hicks, Taft's former chief of staff.
The depositions, sought in a lawsuit brought against the governor by state Sen. Marc Dann, D-32nd of Liberty, "would be cumulative and unduly burdensome and invade the official privilege of these government officers," said the motion filed by lawyer Kathleen M. Trafford, who is acting as special counsel for Taft.
Also, the notice of deposition for Samuels, Nedved, Conrad and Hicks is "ineffective," Taft's motion for protective order said, because none of them is a current employee of the governor's office.
Samuels is a former liaison between the governor's office and the BWC; Nedved is a BWC lobbyist and Hicks is now a private lobbyist.
In his lawsuit, which remains pending, Dann is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to order the governor to turn over memoranda between the governor's office and the BWC, the state's insurance fund for injured workers. The state has lost about $300 million in various investments over the past few years, according to news reports.
Dann says he wants to know when or if the governor was informed of the investment losses. The suit seeks copies of weekly reports from Conrad sent to Taft dating back to 1998.
Lawyers for Dann, who's emerged as one of the most vocal critics of the BWC investment controversies, had asked that the depositions be carried out today.
The Ohio attorney general's office notified Dann's lawyers earlier this week that Taft and the others wouldn't give depositions and that the documents sought are protected under executive privilege.
Instead, the attorney general's office offered a deposition of Kate Bartter, Taft's chief policy adviser, to discuss in general the documents Dann is seeking.
"We're going to fight it," Dann said late Thursday. "Those documents belong to the people; they don't belong to Bob Taft." Fred Gittes, Dann's Columbus-based lawyer, said he anticipates filing a response to the governor's motion today or Monday.
Gittes said executive privilege doesn't exist in Ohio law.
"There is nothing in the Ohio Constitution that refers to any executive privilege," Gittes said.
"We will be asking the court to overrule it [the governor's motion]," Gittes said. Gittes said he will likely also ask the high court to stay the lawsuit's schedule until it rules on the governor's motion.