Friday, July 22, 2005

Noe Problem for Ohio

From the Toledo Blade:

Tom Noe stole millions of dollars from the state and used a “Ponzi” scheme to fabricate profits within the state’s $50 million rare-coin investment, Ohio’s attorney general said yesterday.

“There was an absolute theft of funds going on,” Attorney General Jim Petro said.

Mr. Petro said there is evidence that Mr. Noe pocketed nearly $4 million in money invested with the coin fund through the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation since 1998.

Mr. Petro asked a judge to further restrict the former Toledo-area coin dealer from selling personal assets because he believes they may have been purchased with state money.

This story has more threads and complexities than you can shake a stick at, but the bottom line is that there is clear evidence of corruption in the state of Ohio and in the state offices and it leads to the doorstep of Gov. Bob Taft and the the people doing the investigation of the whole matter.

In an April 7 interview with The Blade, Governor Taft vehemently defended Mr. Noe and the state’s rare-coin investment: “He’s probably been the most effective advocate for this part of the state in Columbus that you’ve got and you’re going after this guy. You’re trying to kill him for some reason.”

After yesterday’s news, Mark Rickel, a spokesman for the governor said: “When evidence of Noe’s mishandling of state money first began to surface, the governor acted to dissolve Noe’s investment with the bureau and to expedite the inventory of his assets.”

He added, “The governor commends the attorney general’s continued vigorous pursuit of all assets that belong to the state.”
Democrats, though, have accused Republican officeholders — who benefited from Mr. Noe’s windfall in the form of campaign contributions — from protecting their friend and ally for nearly two months, allowing him time to move money and coins within the investment.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor, distributed a copy of an April 5 letter he sent to Mr. Petro asking him to embrace his proposal for an “independent” investigation of Mr. Noe and the bureau.

Mr. Coleman said Mr. Petro “ignored that request.”

“Instead of aggressively pursuing the matter, Petro remained silent,’’ said Mr. Coleman, in a written statement. “Later that month, The Blade revealed that Petro and Auditor Betty Montgomery joined Noe in financing a campaign television ad on behalf of a Lucas County Republican Party county commission candidate.”

The Blade reported June 20 that Mr. Noe loaned the Lucas County Republican Party’s candidates’ fund $40,000 on Oct. 22, 2002 — the day before the fund paid the same amount to a Columbus firm that bought a series of television ads for Maggie Thurber on Toledo stations.

The same day Mr. Noe made his loan, Mr. Petro contributed $10,000 to the candidates’ fund. Ms. Montgomery’s campaign contributed $26,000 of in-kind services to Ms. Thurber’s campaign.

“It was clear that not only was Petro a recipient of campaign donations from Noe, they were also political allies,’’ said Mr. Coleman. “No wonder Petro had no stomach to investigate wrongdoing by Noe.”

In Columbus they used to argue over who was going to get the lowest number on their license plates because of their high position in the government. Now they’re arguing over who’s going to make it.