COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Facing a legal threat, the state's watchdog said Thursday he will prepare an investigative report on the investment scandal that engulfed Ohio in 2005.
Inspector General Randall Meyer said in a statement that he couldn't give a timeline for its release -- but his decision raises the possibility that the scandal dubbed "Coingate" could garner new attention in a busy presidential year.
Tom Noe, the former coin dealer and Republican fundraiser at the center of the scandal, is serving 18 years in prison. Noe was convicted in a case accusing him of stealing from a $50 million rare-coin fund he oversaw for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.
The scandal Noe touched off reached to the highest levels of the state GOP, resulting in 19 convictions, including then-Gov. Bob Taft and his chief of staff. Noe is currently seeking a new trial.
Meyer initially indicated no report would be issued because years have passed, the inspector general's office has changed hands, and extensive details were revealed through the criminal process.
But Thursday he said that after "realizing the continued public interest," he had changed his mind. He said he "recognizes the assumed responsibility of the office to bring closure to this matter."
Earlier this week, the government watchdog group Common Cause Ohio threatened in a letter to sue over the missing report, suggesting a cover-up.
"The failure to issue an investigation report on Coingate results in a cover-up of what went wrong in state government to cause one of the biggest scandals in Ohio history, and enables the officials responsible to escape accountability," wrote William Woods, chairman of the group's governing board. "Additionally, the public is left wondering if sufficient steps have been taken to preclude similar scandals in the future."
Among questions to which the group wants to see answers, Woods wrote, are: "Why did state officials so seriously mismanage hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds? How could they get away with it for so long? How could they hide those problems from the governor and state auditors? And could the problems occur again?"
Meyer was appointed by Republican Gov. John Kasich as the state's watchdog in January 2011, replacing long-time Inspector General Tom Charles. Charles, who led the office during the investment scandal, now serves as Kasich's director of public safety. He had publicly indicated before the switch that an investigative report was expected.
Ohio Inspector General: http://watchdog.ohio.gov