Senate Hearings Continue On Canceled Drug Sting At Gov's Residence

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A state Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a drug sting involving prisoners working at the governor's residence erupted into a shouting match Wednesday.

Democrats wanted the chair of the Senate committee to delay testimony from key Ohio State Highway Patrol commanders about a drug sting that was called off, 10 Investigates' Paul Aker reported.

State Sen. Timothy Grendell called for the hearings to investigate why a woman patrol officials thought was planning to drop drugs for prisoners working at the residence was tipped off.

WEB EXTRA:  Case Timeline | SPECIAL SECTION: 10 Investigates  

10 Investigates was the first to report that high-ranking state officials in January canceled a planned sting, to stop what investigators believed was a drug drop for inmates from the Pickaway Correctional Institution.

Democratic Senators said they wanted the Inspector General to finish his investigation before retired Ohio State Highway Patrol Maj. Robert Booker spoke publicly.   They walked out in protest and the hearing continued without them.

Shortly after the patrol was made aware of the sting in January, Public Safety Director Collins-Taylor directed Ohio State Highway Patrol Col. David Dicken to "scale back" the operation.
"This was unusual for us and we had never done anything like this before," Booker said. "And we repeatedly asked 'Why, why are we doing this' and ultimately his response was, 'Well because it's the governor's office and we're doing this because we have to keep it quiet.'"

E-mails show Collins-Taylor was concerned the sting may create embarrassment for the governor.

Collins-Taylor relayed the concern to Dicken, but Dicken recently testified the concern was about safety, Aker reported.

"It was a gross violation of officer safety," Dicken said.

After 10 Investigates reported the canceled sting, Dicken and public information officers claimed the decision to stop it was based on the belief the contraband might not be drugs, but  tobacco, Aker reported.

The three troopers who testified on Wednesday said that although they were not sure what type of drugs were planning to be dropped, they did not believe it was tobacco.

"They assured me it was drugs," said Ohio State Highway Patrol Capt. Michelle Henderson.

Booker was relieved of duty in January, and the patrol said it was for his handling of the case, Aker reported.

Grendell said he went forward with the hearing because he already delayed testimony by three weeks.

Dicken and Collins-Taylor have declined to comment citing the Inspector General investigation.

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Previous Stories:

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