BWC SCANDAL Aide adds to belief in lawsuit, Dann says
The governor's chief policy adviser was questioned for more than two hours.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- The questioning of one of Gov. Bob Taft's top aides Wednesday reinforces the belief that the governor is improperly withholding papers from a public-records request connected to a state investment scandal, says the state senator who's suing Taft for the documents.
"It continues to bolster our case that these particular documents are not exempt from public records," state Sen. Marc Dann, of Liberty, D-32nd, said.
Dann's comment came after more than two hours of questioning Kate Bartter, Taft's chief policy adviser.
"There were a number of areas where obviously Ms. Bartter could not answer questions," Dann's lawyer Fred Gittes said. "She just didn't have the knowledge."
Dann and his lawyers say the reports they are seeking are widely circulated and can't be considered confidential.
Dann, whose suit is pending in the Ohio Supreme Court, said he still wants to question the governor in connection with the lawsuit.
What he wants
Dann's suit against Taft seeks all weekly memos dating back to 1998 from the governor's office involving the Bureau of Workers' Compensation, the state's insurance fund for injured workers.
The BWC has lost about $300 million in various investments over the past few years, according to published reports.
Last week, Taft's office turned over several hundred pages of governor's office memoranda to Dann and his lawyers. Dann's lawyers, however, claim some were redacted while as many as 267 memos were not provided.
But lawyers for Taft have filed a motion with the high court seeking protection from depositions, claiming that having the governor testify under oath would violate executive privilege, a Constitutional principle related to the separation of powers which protects the executive branch of government from the infringement by other branches.
Taft's motion for protective order remains pending.
Dann, who has emerged as one of the leading critics of investment controversies at the state agency, plans to file additional requests with the high court for governor's office documents that he says are missing from those he received, as well as motions compelling Taft to testify in the matter and opposing the governor's request to dismiss the case.
Dann says he wants to know when or if the governor was informed of the BWC investment losses.
"We're going to pursue this to the end," Dann said.
Bartter, Arthur Marziale of the state attorney general's office and Kathleen Trafford, a special counsel to the governor in the matter, declined to comment after Bartter's deposition and brushed past reporters.
The governor's office offered Bartter to Dann's lawyers for testimony in connection with the records. Dann had subpoenaed Taft and other current or former state officials to testify in the case.
Mark Rickel, a spokesman for Taft, said the governor's office maintains that executive privilege exists.
"This is about the governor's ability to effectively communicate with his cabinet and staff," Rickel said late Wednesday.
Rickel said the hundreds of pages of documents surrendered by the governor's office to Dann were complete.
Some of the documents were redacted in at least one official's weekly reports, Rickel has said, because matters not related to BWC were included in the reports.