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COLUMBUS Governor: Reports to me are privileged


Published: Fri, September 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.


Some of the documents sent to the governor are confidential, a brief says.
By JEFF ORTEGA
VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT
COLUMBUS -- Weekly reports that cabinet directors give to the governor are exempt from the state public records law because of the executive privilege inherent in the separation of powers of the Ohio Constitution, Gov. Bob Taft says in papers filed with the Ohio Supreme Court.
The governor said the reports sometimes contain sensitive information. Taft's brief was filed in response to a lawsuit brought by state Sen. Marc Dann, a Liberty Democrat who is seeking weekly cabinet reports and other records in connection with a state investments controversy,
Arguments set
Oral arguments in the case are scheduled before the state's high court Nov. 9.
Taft lawyers Kathleen M. Trafford and Bryan R. Faller wrote that in any given week, the reports to the governor contain "information that is sensitive or confidential and therefore not publicly disclosed."
Examples include potential plant openings or closings, potential employee hirings or discipline or the timing and location of potential military exercises, Taft's brief said.
A mandatory disclosure of the reports would negate their usefulness and interfere with the governor's ability to lead the state's executive branch of government, Taft's brief said.
Requiring the governor to disclose the reports would limit the information that cabinet directors put in them, Taft's brief said.
All weekly memos
Dann's suit 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, news reports say.
Taft's office has turned over several hundred pages of governor's office memoranda to Dann and his lawyers. Dann's lawyers, however, say some were redacted while as many as 267 memos may not have been provided. His lawyers also want to depose Taft, a Republican, and other current and former state officials in connection with the suit. Dann has said he wants to know if or when Taft was ever informed of the investment losses that have plagued the BWC.
Seeking protection
But Taft's lawyers have sought protection in the high court from depositions, also claiming executive privilege. Lawyers for Dann, who has emerged as one of the loudest critics of the BWC investment controversies, say executive privilege doesn't exist in Ohio law and that the high court has never ruled on the issue.
Dann is expected to file a brief summarizing his position in the coming weeks.


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