Politics & Policy

Columbus Dispatch: Engel Case is Evidence of Strickland’s Incompetence

Like most media markets, Ohio’s media doesn’t exactly skew right, and certainly isn’t in any hurry to unfairly embarrass Democrats. So when the Columbus Dispatch publishes an editorial unequivocally condemning Ted Strickland, you know things have gotten really bad:

Count the tardy firing of Joshua Engel, once a top attorney in the Department of Public Safety, as one more embarrassing consequence of Gov. Ted Strickland’s failure to make good appointments and insist on competent oversight in this important agency.

Engel, who was recommended for his job by an assistant to Kent Markus, Strickland’s chief legal adviser, is the official who first came to public notice after it was revealed that he conceived a clumsy and underhanded attempt to discredit Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles when Charles was investigating a botched operation of the State Highway Patrol.

Engel’s idea was to leak a classified document to Charles, in hopes that he would release it publicly – a violation of federal law that would expose Charles to criminal prosecution.

The scheme wasn’t carried out, but revelation of it resulted in Engel’s demotion to staff attorney. He should have been fired then; that sort of poor judgment and unethical behavior disqualify him for any public post.[…]

While many of the e-mails qualify as public records, some “almost certainly,” in Markus’ words, were investigatory documents that Engel wasn’t authorized to see. That could make their interception a crime.[…]

Strickland allowed patrol Capt. David Dicken to be promoted to head the agency despite a history of reprimands and questions about his handling of a patrol fund. As superintendent, Dicken and then-Acting Safety Director Cathy Collins-Taylor called off a sting against contraband smugglers at the Governor’s Residence for fear of embarrassing the governor. They falsely claimed it endangered the public.

Investigation of that incident revealed Engel’s abuses.

Markus said Engel wasn’t fired sooner because the governor didn’t want to micromanage his agencies. But when an agency is being mismanaged, it’s the governor’s responsibility to step in and fix it. That’s not micromanagement. It’s Management 101.

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