Report: 'Political Embarrassment' Key Factor In Canceled Sting

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"Obfuscation" and "false statements" made by Ohio Department of Public Safety officials may keep investigators from ever finding out the real reason why a criminal sting at the Governor's Residence was canceled in January, according to a report issued Thursday by State Inspector General Tom Charles.

10 Investigates was the first to report that high-ranking state officials canceled the operation aimed at stopping what investigators believed was a drug drop for inmates from the Pickaway Correctional Institution.

Charles' report blasted Gov. Ted Strickland's Ohio Department of Public Safety administration, and raised serious questions about the governor's own conduct regarding the inmate work program at his home, 10 Investigates' Paul Aker reported.

WEB EXTRAS:  Read Inspector General's Report   (PDF File) | Strickland's Response Case Timeline | SPECIAL SECTION:  10 Investigates

In his report, Charles wrote that political embarrassment appeared to have been a factor in canceling the sting, and that Ohio Public Safety Director Cathy Collins-Taylor's claim that she stopped the planned sting for the Gov. Ted Strickland's safety was a "pretext."

An e-mail previously obtained by 10 Investigates revealed that Collins-Taylor was interested in a scaled back operation to avoid "embarrassment to the boss," Strickland.

"Our investigation determined that the primary reason given for canceling the conveyance operation -- that it presented a danger to Gov. Strickland, his wife, Frances, their guests at a dinner party and troopers stationed at the Residence -- was a pretext," Charles wrote.

The inspector general's report said Collins-Taylor was dishonest when explaining her decision under oath, saying she "did not tell the truth about the timing of her decision," Aker reported.

The report also said Ohio State Highway Patrol Col. David Dicken lacked credibility when he publicly stated the canceled sting was due to a "gross violation of officer safety practices."

"The operation was safe, well planned and routine," Charles wrote.  "Due primarily to obfuscation and false statements made by (Ohio Department of Public Safety) officials, we may never know the precise reason for the decision, but it is clear that avoiding political embarrassment to the Governor was a key factor."

The Inspector General also determined that an inmate work program at the mansion has "deteriorated to the point that it compromised the safety and reputation of the first family."

Charles spelled out a list of other inmate problems at the residence, including another drug investigation that was apparently aborted in 2009, frequent contraband problems, and direct involvement by Strickland's family to have an inmate returned to the house after being removed for conveying contraband that could have been used as a weapon, Aker reported.

Strickland released a statement Thursday, saying his administration would review the report and recommendations to "make appropriate modifications to state policies and procedures and take any appropriate administrative actions."

He also said that if decisions were made in order to protect him from some kind of embarrassment, they were unnecessary.

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Previous Stories:

April 28, 2010:  'No Holds Barred' Report Expected About Gov. Residence Incident
March 24, 2010:  Senate Hearings Continue On Canceled Drug Sting At Gov's Residence
March 22, 2010: Canceled Hearings On Drug Sting Will Continue
March 17, 2010: E-Mails Show Drug Sting May Have Been Stopped For Political Reasons
February 24, 2010: Cover Up Allegations Follow Canceled Drug Sting
February 23, 2010:  Concerns Linger About Alcohol, Inmates Inside Governor's Residence
February 17, 2010:  10 Investigates' Probe Prompts Senate Hearing
February 2, 2010:   Patrol Changes Investigation Involving Major 
February 1, 2010:   Ex-Colonel Wants Investigation Into Alleged Gov. Residence Plot
January 29, 2010:   Ohio Highway Patrol Official Ousted Over Alleged Gov. Residence Plot
January 28, 2010:   Strickland Confident How Patrol Handled Sting Outside His Mansion
January 27, 2010:   Woman At Center Of Alleged Drug Deal Governor's Mansion Explains Ordeal
January 26, 2010:   Patrol Tips Off Woman Suspected In Drug Deal At Governor's Mansion