COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Legal records of the historic conviction of then-Ohio Gov. Bob Taft in a 2005 rare-coin investment scandal have been shielded forever from public view.
The expungement was revealed by the fact that there was no reference to Taft’s no-contest plea on ethics charges in a state watchdog’s long-awaited report on the Coingate scandal released last week. Inspector General Randall Meyer indicated he was legally prohibited from mentioning certain figures’ involvement because their records were sealed. He didn’t say who.
Taft, the great-grandson of former U.S. President William Howard Taft, is Ohio’s only governor convicted of a crime.
The former governor’s name appears in Meyer’s report but his and four other convictions aren’t mentioned. The Columbus Dispatch first tied the missing reference to the expungement of Taft’s record.
Reached Tuesday at his office at the University of Dayton, Taft declined to discuss the report with The Associated Press. “I’m not going to talk about that,” he said.
The scandal began with a newspaper report of a dubious $50 million investment by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation into a rare-coin fund run by generous Republican fundraiser Tom Noe, of Toledo. Two coins worth $300,000 were reported lost, and other investments were missing or unaccounted for.
A web was eventually uncovered linking influence-peddling at the bureau to bribery, lavish gifts and political contributions.
Taft’s conviction, one of 19 in the scandal, involved failing to report golf games with Noe and other gifts on required ethics statements.
A Republican from Cincinnati, Taft was Ohio’s governor from 1999 to 2007.
Meyer cited sealed legal files and a cold investigative trail among obstacles to his completing the report on the nearly decade-old scandal sooner. He inherited the job from predecessor Tom Charles, who played an active role in the Coingate investigation. Charles left the office in 2010 without issuing the report, to become Gov. John Kasich’s public safety director.
After a government watchdog group’s threats of litigation and a lawsuit filed by The Blade of Toledo, the newspaper that broke news of the initial coin investments, Meyer finally released the report.
The document included no new findings of wrongdoing, instead detailing the status of 75 reforms at the workers’ compensation bureau that were recommended through reviews at the time by the governor’s office, state auditor and Legislature. Meyer concluded the bureau is “a much more professional and accountable organization” today.
Four of those convicted weren’t mentioned at all in the report: Cherie Carroll, then-executive secretary of Taft’s chief of staff; Doug Moormann, Taft’s former aide; Tim LaPointe, Noe’s business partner; and Keith Zolkowski, a former workers’ comp investment officer and equity trader.
Carl Enslen, a spokesman for Meyer, said the office cannot discuss whether they were omitted because their records have been expunged.
“It’s a violation of the law to identify individuals who have petitioned courts and gotten expungements and so on,” he said. “We have to be careful about discussing people we didn’t talk about.”