Administrator James Conrad Quits After $10 Million in Coins Disappears
Ohio’s workers’ compensation director, once hailed as government’s “Mr. Fixit,” has resigned because of a growing scandal about the disappearance of about $10 million worth of rare coins the agency bought as an investment.
Neither Conrad nor any member of his staff told the governor about the state’s investment in coins, Gov. Bob Taft said. When questions arose in April, officials told Taft the investment was profitable and safe. State officials say they plan to sue coin dealer Tom Noe and seek criminal charges after his attorney told them Thursday that $10 million to $12 million of the state’s $55 million investment in rare coins is missing–dramatically more than the previous estimate of $400,000.
The state plans to sell off its coin collection, which represents less than 1 percent of the bureau’s total $14 billion in investments. Taft said he believes Conrad, who will leave next Friday, understands the investment was a mistake and that he is responsible as agency administrator. Taft wouldn’t say if he fired Conrad, calling it a mutual decision. In a statement, Conrad said the issue was getting in the way of the bureau’s mission to serve injured workers and employers.
“The last thing I want to do is distract from the outstanding progress we have made together over the years,” he said.
The agency learned for the first time this week that Noe claimed to have bought artwork, autographs and other collectibles instead of coins. Coin dealers and two national groups that track state investments said they know of no other state that has invested in rare coins, autographs or other collectibles.
Noe, 50, a leading GOP donor who operates a coin shop near Toledo, was hired in 1998, the year before Taft took office, to invest in coins as a way to hedge the agency’s investments in stocks and bonds. While Noe is a respected coin expert, Democrats have alleged that he was awarded the state’s business in return for campaign contributions to Republicans, who control most of state government. Noe gave Taft $1,000 in 2004, for example.
Noe has resigned as fund manager. State officials said they do not know where he is or which coins are missing. Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge David Cain on Friday froze all personal and business assets of Noe and his wife.
The bureau had made $15.3 million from the investments while Noe has collected about $3.8 million in commission.
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