by Frank Lewis
It’s not just that ex-Governor George Voinovich liquidated Ohio’s largest malpractice insurance firm a decade ago, possibly to cover up illicit ties to some lowdown political shenanigans and to nurture a cash cow for the state. It’s that he can’t seem to explain why, or if he even cares about the thousands of people he screwed over to do it.
The victims are not just the doctors who lost all their stock in the physician-owned firm, or the claimants who took reduced settlements or are still waiting for money. They are also the 150 employees who lost their jobs and are still waiting on their 401k payments — all while the state still sits on a pot of money that’s nearly double in size to the amount still owed to everyone. A decade later.
“I sympathize with the claimants that did not receive what was owed to them,” says Rebecca Peko, a former middle manager at PIE who lost her job and is still waiting on about $40,000 in 401k. “But for many of us who spent years working there and had to start all over, it was a great difficulty. Many of us had children, etc. I remember that none of the news channels would even listen to us at the time. I believe that they were mixed up in the political bull as well. I could really write a book.”
Since Scene wrote about the PIE scandal two weeks ago, a few more developments have transpired to make us question even more the strength of our dear two-party system.
The Cleveland lawyer for Tom McManamon, who sued the state back in 2002 over what documents seem to show was a sham orchestrated by the state to cover up a cover-up, wrote a letter on June 9 to Assistant Attorney General Scott Myers, who’s handled the case for the state since the beginning. Attorney Ken Seminatore asked Myers why he wasn’t getting back to him about missing files; they'd examined the 77 boxes of evidence for the PIE case and asked for copies of many, but didn't get everything they'd requested. (McManamon sued six years ago, mind you, and is just now getting some of all of the documents that should have been provided years ago.)
McManamon hopes it isn’t a coincidence that a document that’s gone missing felt like a nugget of gold when he and Seminatore found it. He really just doesn’t trust these people anymore, and for good reason.
The feds say state investigators under Voinovich kept computers of PIE’s top executives, ones suspected to contain information about PIE’s solvency and the state’s dirty dealings — but those computers have since disappeared. The state still says that the feds must have them.
“So either the copy service didn’t copy some of this by mistake, or the state took it out,” says McMamamon. They told Assistant AG Myers that the documents they sought were in 18 of the 77 boxes. And to hand them over.
Myers sent Seminatore a letter back just three days later, along with 100 more documents — but McManamon says they already had everything in that shipment. Their prized document wasn’t there.
“If these records are not what you believe your copy service missed, I will make arrangements to have the 18 boxes moved back to the viewing room for your review,” wrote Myers.
At this point, McManamon says he won’t accept anything less than seeing all 77 boxes again. “Since when does a defense attorney review documents and send you what he thinks is ok to look at?” wrote Mcmanamon in a recent email. “I said, ‘I want all 77,’ because if they found this document we want, they may have put it in a different box.”
Myers’ letter also reveals that the state does not have a lot of information that you’d think it should. "The liquidator has represented to me that they does [sic] not possess any documents establishing PIE’s solvency or insolvency, since that fact had been determined before the liquidator took over the matter," wrote Myers. And, he continued later, “there are no records containing an analysis by the liquidator of claims against or receivables made from Lloyds reinsures” — a debt between $50 million and $130 million that was owed to PIE by Lloyd’s of London, one that was never pursued by the state’s liquidation-minded soldiers.
A lot of other stuff that Seminatore asked for wasn’t available too. Myers told him he’d keep looking for a lot of it, but Seminatore and McManamon declined. They’re going back down on June 25. And if they don’t find what they’re looking for? Old PIE officials had copies sent to Seminatore of a lot of this stuff, so watch out Uncle Buckeye, whichever party you profess to follow these days.
“Democrat or Republican, this is the state trying to protect itself and its departments,” says Mcmanamon. “These people, as much as they’d probably like to expose this as a Republican problem, well, the money could be so huge at this point that it could affect the state’s budget.”
You mean the one that’s already cutting back $2 billion from health and human services alone? Guess Democratic Governor Strickland can just blame all this on Voinovich if things get rough. And Voinovich will just retire in peace. — Dan Harkins