Thursday, July 14, 2005

 

Taft's, Hick's "Envision" problems

Although much of the focus of the various "pay-to-play" investigations has been on BWC and ethics, the thing that has the GOP very nervous is a widening investigation into various unbid contract.

As we have noted, former gubernatorial candidate and current Cuyahoga County Commission Tim Hagan has had a suit against Taft and his operatives over unbid contracts, but the suit has languished over jurisdictional questions. The recent decision by Tom Moyer hopefully puts this case on the front burner.

But we have been reminded of an effort begun last year by Hagan's brother Bob, a state senator from the Youngstown area, to get the Inspector General to investigate the too-convenient-to-be-legal relationship among Envision Pharmaceutical Services and past/present members of the Taft administration.

In September 2004, Sen. Hagan wrote to IG Tom Charles to ask whether two former high-level members of the Taft administration, Brian Hicks and Cherie Carroll, had improperly steered an unbid $9.13 million contract to Envision to administer the state's new Best Rx low-income pharmacy program. Hagan wondered how Envision, which has offices in Ohio, Florida and California, had beaten out other benefit managers. He also asked if Hicks and Carroll had violated the state's "revolving door" laws prohibit lobbying by former state officials for one-year.

Back then Hicks' and Carroll's names were mainly familiar to lobbyists and politicians. Now their infamy has, ahem, gotten a little bigger.

But apparently because of their political status and Hagan's lack of clout (not a criticism of Bob - he's a done a great job fighting for the right issues in the Senate), Charles was not enthusiastic about pursuing the investigation back then.

The Youngstown Business Journal picks up the story from there:
In a phone interview yesterday, Hagan said the inspector general told him earlier that it was difficult to get phone records and other information relevant to the investigation, and it “might be a daunting task” to pursue. Hagan wanted the investigation to continue, he replied.
Sen. Hagan persisted and Charles apparently changed his mind:
“When everything else started to crumble around this governor, [the inspector general] said there may be some validity to these charged,” Hagan said.
Now, the Hicks/Carroll ties to Envision are no secret. Both the Dispatch and the Plain Dealer Hicks have reported on this.

The point of all this is that there is quite a bit of discussion going on that Charles is, indeed, now digging into these records and looking for conflicts related to Envision.

Furthermore, the public records suit being pursued by State Sen. Marc Dann and others could blow this whole matter open. If Taft, Hicks and the others are forced to produce their phone records, calendars and email, you better believe that the Democrats' investigators will make a the search records pertaining to Envision one of their top priorities.

By the way, Envision honchos are pretty well-known to the RNC. Together Envision chairman Jim Mindala and CEO Kevin Nagle have contributed over $84,000 to Republican campaigns since 2002.

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