TrooperGate Update: A Pattern of Corruption at the Governor’s Residence & the Heat on Kent Markus Continues!
From Jim Provance in The Toledo Blade:
A former Ohio State Highway Patrol superintendent said yesterday he and former colleagues are concerned that investigatory decisions are being increasingly influenced and politicized by the Strickland administration.
Former Col. Richard Collins, who was asked to resign along with his boss last year by Gov. Ted Strickland to resolve what was described as personality conflicts, told a Senate committee that December’s decision to scuttle a planned sting at the governor’s residence fits the pattern.
“I think we have a responsibility to stay independent,” said Mr. Collins, who spent more than 31 years with the patrol, six of them as commander of the patrol’s Findlay District.
“We offer, as we have other administrations, to provide overviews of criminal cases that we were involved in, but as far as how we proceed with those investigations, how we work with local elected prosecutors … that’s our responsibility, not the responsibility of the civilian authority, the lawyers, and the legal section,” he said.
The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary-Criminal Justice Committee is holding hearings looking generally into allegations of interference by civilian officials in highway patrol investigations and specifically the decision to call off the sting at the governor’s mansion meant to catch someone in the act of slipping contraband to an inmate working there to convey back to the prison.
It remains unclear what the contraband was, although conjecture among officials has ranged from drugs to tobacco.
“Regardless of what that was or was not, once we knew that some kind of transaction was going to take place, I think it was the highway patrol’s responsibility to intervene,” Mr. Collins said.
He said that if he were still head of the highway patrol at the time, that sting would have proceeded as planned.
Superiors had raised safety concerns, questioning the wisdom of allowing the apparent transaction to take place on the grounds of the governor’s home. Ultimately, the woman who was planning the drop was tipped off.
“Would the Secret Service allow a package to be thrown over the White House wall if they didn’t know what it was?” Sen. Nina Turner (D., Cleveland) asked.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Tim Grendell (R., Chesterland), said he “intends to use the full investigatory powers of this committee to get to the bottom of what I believe is a growing stack of evidence that politics is overcoming public safety.”
Mr. Collins was promoted to superintendent by Henry Guzman, Mr. Strickland’s first director of public safety, with whom Mr. Collins admitted yesterday he often disagreed. The governor ultimately asked both for their resignations.
And in related news, Randy Ludlow at The Dispatch reports that Legislative Inspector General Tony Bledsoe has questions for lobbyist Thomas Fries about his contract for The Anchor Companies, which is known for their hiring of illegal immigrants:
The office’s lawyer sent a letter to Fries yesterday inquiring about his lobbying on behalf of The Anchor Companies and the potential need to amend his registration and activity statements.
Fries, a long-time lobbyist and friend with Gov. Ted Strickland, began lobbying for the company on July 23, 2008, when he met with Kent Markus, the governor’s chief legal counsel. Yet, Fries did not disclose that activity to Bledsoe’s office.
Fries did not reveal he was lobbying the governor’s office on Anchor’s behalf until Sept. 10, 2008, when he and an Anchor lawyer filled out lobbyist registration statement.The statement arrived in Bledsoe’s office nine days later.
The Columbus real-state company had been accused of filing falsified records with the state to hide the non-payment of prevailing wages and the hiring of illegal immigrants to remodel a state-leased office building at 770 W. Broad St. for use as the state prison offices.
The SAME DAY Fries filled out his registration requirement, Ted Strickland’s super-duper lawyer who has been at the center of a handful of corrupt situations, met with State Highway investigators to question the Patrol’s jurisdiction in the matter. This was the Strickland Administration so intent on paying off political supporters that they were willing to actively involve themselves in tipping off criminals of a forthcoming drug sting.
Kent Markus is about to politically hang.