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Dann: Why did Petro wait to investigate?



Published: Fri, June 17, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The state senator accuses the attorney general of diverting attention from his failures.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- State Sen. Marc Dann, known as the Democrats' attack dog on the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation financial scandal, took a sharp bite Thursday at Attorney General Jim Petro.

In the third letter he's sent to Petro about this issue, Dann of Liberty, D-32nd, requested various information about the attorney general's investigation of the BWC's investment policies. Dann wants to know why Petro didn't immediately begin investigations when he became aware of the problems. Petro says he did.

Dann also attacked Petro, a 2006 gubernatorial candidate, for posting a June 9 letter he wrote to the state senator about this issue on the official attorney general Web site.

"If he wants to post the letter, I suggest he buy the rights to marcdannsucks.com instead of using a government-paid Web site," Dann told The Vindicator in an interview.

An attorney general's office spokesman said Petro is writing a letter to Dann in response to the state senator's latest correspondence, and doesn't know when it will be finished.

GOP's, Dann's contentions

Ohio Republican officials have accused Democrats, particularly Dann, of exploiting the BWC scandal for political purposes.

While he's been asked to run next year for attorney general, Dann said he is focused on this issue and isn't using it for political gain. Dann plans to run for re-election to the state Senate in 2008, and is interested in being Democratic Senate leader in 2007.

"Never say never [about running for attorney general], but that's not why I'm doing this," he said. "I want good solutions to this issue. I want to get to the truth. I'm engaged in a process to make good policy for the state in the future."

The BWC, responsible for insuring injured workers, lost $215 million in a high-risk investment fund managed by MDL Capital Management of Pittsburgh. Also, at least $12 million from a coin investment controlled by Tom Noe, a prominent GOP fund-raiser, is missing. The BWC also lost $3.9 million from a fund handled by a New York money manager serving a 12-year federal prison term for bilking clients.

Petro filed a lawsuit June 10 against MDL and appointed retired federal Judge William T. Bodoh, former bankruptcy judge in Youngstown, as BWC's independent expert to help the agency liquidate its coin fund investment.

What the senator wants

Dann is seeking any documents between Petro's office and Noe and/or those who represent Noe between April 1, when The Blade of Toledo first published articles about the missing coins, and May 27, the day after Noe's attorneys told state officials about the coins. Petro filed suits on May 24 and 26 against Noe's company on behalf of the BWC.

In the June 9 letter to Dann, Petro said the state senator's request is essentially for privileged communications between the BWC and his office. As an attorney, Dann should know that would violate attorney-client privilege, Petro wrote, adding that he is "shocked that you would even ask me to breach the privilege."

If the information isn't turned over to Dann by today, he plans to seek an order from the state Supreme Court for the documentation.

Dann's letter to Petro also includes numerous questions about the MDL investigation. Petro said he filed suit against MDL as soon as he found out about the fund problem, and disputes reports that he knew about it months earlier. Petro hired a law firm as special counsel to the BWC for investment-related issues in September 2004, and Dann said that is proof that he knew about problems. Petro has said he didn't know the magnitude of the loss until June 7.

As for the appointment of Bodoh, Petro said the retired jurist is uniquely qualified for the job. Petro then took a shot at Dann writing that he knows the state senator has appeared in the judge's court in the past.

"I have no idea if you were successful or not in your appearances in his court, but in the event you were not, I hope that has not been factoring into your request that I rescind his appointment," Petro wrote. "If that is the case, however, then with all due respect, I suggest that you have a conflict of interest in making that request."

Dann said his objection to the judge's appointment is because Bodoh, whom he respects, works for a law firm that has contributed to Petro's campaign.

Dann wrote that during his time in front of Bodoh, he disagreed with the judge's decision once and was successful in persuading a federal appeals court to overturn that decision.

"My concern is that hiring his firm perpetuates the pay-to-play culture of corruption that has enveloped all contracts awarded in state government," he wrote.

skolnick@vindy.com




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