Ok, that headline is not exactly our style, but the shenanigans at the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation seem to call for it. In our May 13 blog, we first mentioned the truly bizarre story unfolding in Ohio. The workers compensation bureau has invested $50 million in rare coins, working through Tom Noe, a man prominent in Republican fund raising circles. Indeed, Mr. Noe has been recognized by the Bush-Cheney campaign as a “Pioneer,” as he raised over $100,000 for the President’s re-election campaign.
Realm of the Coin
At this point, it appears that some of the coins purchased by the state fund are missing. Two of the most valuable, totaling a quarter of a million dollars, were "lost in the mail" according to Noe. An additional 119 coins were "misappropriated by an employee." The coins "went missing" back in 2003, but Noe neglected to tell anyone. The initial estimate for the missing coins was $400,000. Now, according to Noe's own attorney, the figure is somewhere between $10 and $12 million. (That's a negative return on investment of over 20%.) I'm tempted to say that the first estimate was "close enough for government work" but it wasn't and I won't.
There are further allegations reaching toward Ohio's corner office: Brian Hicks, a former chief of staff to Governor Taft, apparently enjoyed a cut-rate vacation at Mr. Noe's 3,600 square foot waterfront home in Florida. Hicks did pay Mr. Noe for the vacation -- somewhere between $300 to $500 for a five-night stay. Real estate agents estimate the true value of the rental runs closer to $3,000. (For details, see our May 13 blog.) Sounds as if they need to do a better job of teaching math in Ohio!
Today's blog brings you up to date in what is going to be an on-going saga. We read that the head of the comp bureau, James Conrad, has resigned. Other heads are likely to follow and Noe himself faces criminal charges. We find it ironic, indeed, that what may well turn out to be the biggest case of workers comp fraud in Ohio history does not involve phony injuries, crooked doctors, unscrupulous employers or attorneys. No, it appears at least on some level to involve the Workers Comp Bureau itself. For the taxpayers and employers of Ohio, with this flip of the coin it's "heads you lose, tails you lose."
Stay tuned for more details.