Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Wednesday, March 1

OH Gov: Emails Support Pay-to-Play Allegations Against Petro (R); Selection of Lawyers by Blackwell (R) Questioned


The Cleveland Plain Dealer has stories highlighting problems for both Republican gubernatorial candidates, in each case having to do with the hiring of lawyers. The big news today is this story detailing emails obtained by the newspaper from the University of Akron, originally sent by University officials to Attorney General Jim Petro (R-Rocky River). This correspondence reveals that Petro ordered the University to replace four law firms, even though the university's general counsel warned that the changes would be costly and inefficient. Petro overruled these objections and ordered that the lucrative legal work be transferred to a politically connected firm instead. At least two of the firms have charged that they lost the work because they refused to contribute to Petro's campaign. A remarkable fact mentioned in the story is that Petro attempted to block disclosure of the emails on the basis of the attorney-client privilege, but as the "client" the University simply exercised its right to waive the privilege.

As to Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati), the Plain Dealer "blog" Openers is reporting that Blackwell has hired Arlington, Virginia-based lawyer Robert A. Destro as special counsel for the Office of the Secretary of State. Destro represented Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Terri Schiavo's parents in the battle to keep Schiavo on life support last year, against what husband Michael Schiavo testified were his wife's own wishes and despite numerous lower court orders to the contrary. Destro got an unbid $75,000 state contract through Blackwell's office on January 9, to advise Blackwell on legal issues involving electronic voting machines. This hiring is controversial because Destro is not based in Ohio, and his hiring appears to be related to his political views. Also, this story comes on the heels of this report that Blackwell also pays a lawyer handling a lawsuit against state-owned Miami University (for granting benefits to same-sex couples) at the rate of $175 an hour as a special counsel. Although not technically a violation of legal ethics, it is very strange for the state to be paying a lawyer who is simultaneously handling a major suit against the state.

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