Petro Told Political Allies About Plans to Investigate Noe

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Attorney General Jim Petro informed his political allies about plans to get tough on the former manager of the state coin scandal days before he told the man's lawyer, a newspaper reported. Petro sent a letter geared to his 2006 gubernatorial campaign to thousands of Republicans on June 20 informing them of his plans to recover money lost in the Bureau of Workers' Compensation's $58 million investment in rare coins, managed by Tom Noe, The Plain Dealer said Tuesday.

Noe's lawyer, Bill Wilkinson, said he didn't hear of Petro's plans until June 22.

In a separate development Monday, The Columbus Dispatch and state Sen. Marc Dann, a suburban Youngstown Democrat, dropped open-records lawsuits they filed against the Bureau of Workers' Compensation after receiving the requested records. The Toledo Blade has not withdrawn a similar lawsuit because it said information still was being withheld.

The political letter was sent to let people know "we are doing our job and looking out for the folks," said Petro spokesman Mark Anthony. Wilkinson said it was unusual for Petro to announce his plans in a political letter.

Wilkinson also criticized Petro's request for an estimate of attorney's fees and plans to set aside up to $13 million that is missing from the fund. "I think he is forbidden from making these demands," Wilkinson said. "This is an attorney general who is trying to renegotiate a deal."

The requests violate an agreement both sides reached last month that required state approval for Noe to sell assets worth more than $15,000 and allowed him to only pay legal fees and living expenses, Wilkinson said. Dann said he dropped his public records lawsuit because he has received all the coin investment inventory records that he had requested.

However, Dann said Monday night he has yet to receive additional records he requested last week from the governor's office and could sue Gov. Bob Taft in the state Supreme Court to obtain them. Dann wants weekly reports submitted to Taft by the governor's former executive assistant for business and industry, Jim Samuel, and from the former BWC director, James Conrad. Samuel has taken a pay cut and been reassigned, and Conrad has resigned amid the investment scandals.

Dann said his lawyer will speak with Petro this week to try to obtain the weekly reports without going to court.

The Dispatch also has pending requests unrelated to its lawsuit, editor Benjamin Marrison said. The Blade requested records of all purchase and sale transactions involving the state's coins since 1998, which the bureau has not released. "The Blade will not drop the suit until the bureau complies with state law and makes all of its public records open to public inspection," said Ron Royhab, executive editor and vice president of The Blade.

Posted by AEB