Ohio Inspector General Randy Meyer hesitates for a second when asked whether he thinks he's continuing the work of his predecessor, Tom Charles. "That is a good question," he says. "I'm obviously going to try and put my own mark on what we do here."
During his 12 years as the state's top anti-corruption official, Charles built the IG office into an aggressive, high-profile agency. He tackled complicated and controversial cases and took down plenty of prominent people-Marc Dann, Tom Noe, Bob Taft, to name a few.
But Charles is now running the Department of Public Safety, one of his frequent targets as IG, and he brought with him some of his most experienced IG investigators. What's more, Meyer dismissed seven other IG staffers when he started in early January, all of whom Charles ended up hiring again at DPS. In total, 16 IG employees transferred to Public Safety.
The turnover-more than half of Charles's old staff-left a big hole. In addition to Charles, gone are his top deputy, his legal counsel and investigators involved in some of the office's biggest cases, including probes into a botched sting at the governor's mansion and bid-rigging at a Department of Transportation district office near Cleveland.
Meyer acknowledges that the turnover is significant, but he also expresses confidence in the new team he has assembled, which includes several people he brought over from the Ohio Auditor of State, where he headed the special investigations unit. Among his top hires are James Manken, a former lawyer with the auditor's office, and Rod Stewart, an ex-investigator with the Ohio Ethics Commission, both of whom Meyer worked with while at the auditor's office.
Meyer also recruited from the auditor's office two accountants and a criminal analyst. He hopes the analyst will help investigators identify trends, while the accountants add needed expertise for complicated white-collar cases. The positions, all new to the IG's office, were important parts of Meyer's former unit. "In the last four years, we identified over $20 million in misspent money," he says. "It was a pretty good team."
Another difference might be how Meyer handles one of the most powerful tools at his disposal. State law gives the IG the ability to investigate complaints involving the executive branch and issue reports. Charles wasn't shy about delving into sensitive areas and releasing blockbuster, strongly worded assessments.
Meyer says he wants to work more closely with prosecutors and might hold back on issuing public documents involving criminal allegations to protect the integrity of the investigations. "I'm going to be more focused on making sure the end result, if it's a criminal case, is that the prosecutions occur, versus getting the information out there first," Meyer says.
This story appeared in the March 2011 issue of Columbus Monthly.