In today’s column, Douglas actually writes:

For starters, the inspector general himself kept his distance. His wife is a Highway Patrol captain. His staff took the lead, Charles overseeing and signing the final report.

That’s some recusal!  Believe it or not, Douglas actually wrote those words in defense of Charles, not to mock Charles’ claim of recusing himself for having a conflict of interest.  In other words, according to Michael Douglas, we should accept Charles’ conclusions (despite the obvious conflicts of interests that Charles has belatedly acknowledged) because he “recused” himself by only doing the very things he’s done in just about every investigation he’s ever done when he didn’t admit that he had a conflict of interest.  Seriously, I don’t see any evidence that Charles was any less involved in this investigation than he’s was in others. 

Furthermore, according to Douglas, we shouldn’t question Charles’ report of the investigation he supervised, oversaw, and signed off the final report on because a week later, Charles has finally admitted what we all were saying: when it comes to matters involving the Patrol, Charles has a major conflict of interest.

On a side note, I’m amazed that Charles’ admission of a conflict of interest in this case hasn’t raised this obvious question in the media: what was unique about Charles’ conflict in this case that wouldn’t also had caused him to have a conflict of interest in all the other investigations he’s done when the Patrol was a subject agency of his office?

Thank god, Douglas apparently believes, that the questioning was done by staffers who serve at the pleasure of Charles, rather than Charles himself, or else it might appear the investigation was biased:

Mannion’s attorney, H. Ritchey Hollenbaugh, said Charles’ investigators became angry when the lieutenant wouldn’t tell them what they wanted to hear.

“There were more statements and accusations than there were questions,” Hollenbaugh said.

“I think they wanted to hear that he was in favor of it (the original plan), but that it was Collins-Taylor or Dicken who had called off the sting. The story that had already been written, I think, was that it was a case of political interference in the day-to-day operations of the patrol.”

Hollenbaugh said Charles’ team appeared to be targeting Haseley and Markus.

Both Saxbe and Hollenbaugh, who have represented many clients with Charles, said this probe was different.

“I was kind of taken aback by the hostility,” Hollenbaugh said. “I’ve always gotten along with Charles well. This just had a much different tone about it right from the very beginning. It was much more accusatory.”

Saxbe said, “I’ve never encountered this kind of inappropriate conduct by an investigator or prosecutor.”

(Source: Columbus Dispatch)

Douglas seems to want to criticize those who dare to criticize the Inspector General, but he’s having a hard time to find a factual basis to do so.  We pointed out his conflict of interest, and Douglas admits that Charles even admitted to it, but he excuses it under Charles’ ridiculous claim that he “recused” himself from the investigation despite overseeing every aspect of it.  I’d challenge the media to find a single expert on government ethics that would call what Charles did the equivalent of recusal (or sufficient given the circumstances.)

Douglas then adopts the arguments of Charles’ critics, all the while declaring our criticisms as invalid:

Why not just admit the decision was yours? The Highway Patrol falls under her command.

Douglas neglects to mention that one of the chief criticisms of Charles’ report is that it falsely stated that state law was silent as to whether Collins-Taylor had legal authority to approve or disprove the Patrol’s actions.  And yet, he actually admits we’re right on a point of law Charles’ office is still insisting otherwise despite clear statutory language.  It’s called the “Case of the Missing Statute.”  It’s kind of a big deal.

It’s like Michael Douglas has somehow concluded that he’s going to report on what Charles got wrong, without ever mentioning that Charles got it wrong, and then present those of us who have been pointing out these things that we have nothing valid to criticize Charles about.

Michael Douglas cannot understand why after twelve years serving as the unchecked Inspector General of Ohio, anyone could possibly  believe that such a person could become corrupted over time.  After all, when in human history have we seen benevolent people be applauded in to positions of unchecked sweeping powers only to see them become twisted and corrupted?  It’d probably be easier to ask when that hasn’t happened, or just stick your head in the sand like apparently Michael Douglas has done.

Douglas then commits an act of journalistic malpractice.  He recites an accusation without ever bothering to looking into it himself or giving the other party a chance to respond.  In this instance, it’s really going to embarrass Douglas for not doing so:

Collins-Taylor and her team ”went to extraordinary lengths to impede our ability to obtain records.” They ”showered us with 46,731 pages of documents, only 2,144 (4.6 percent) of which were relevant or responsive.”

The Department of Public Safety will issue its official response as permitted by statute to the Inspector General’s office soon.  Douglas, at worst, should have merely suggested that the I.G.’s allegation about a “document dump” was troubling and needed to be addressed in that response or in the future.  A journalist would have at least called the Ohio Department of Public Safety for response.  Had he done as this blogger did, Douglas would have learn just how disingenuous Thomas Charles was in this report.

I’ve talked to multiple sources familiar with the allegation that the Ohio Department of Public Safety engaged in a “document dump.”  I’ve heard one consistent story.  The agency has outdated IT infrastructure.  Worse than many other agencies.  When they entered in the search terms listed in the Inspector General’s subpoenas, they resulted in over 40,000 documents that contained some or all of those terms. 

They instantly recognized that over 90% of these documents were likely irrelevant to what the Inspector General wanted, so they contacted the Inspector General’s office and gave them two options: 1) give Public Safety two or three days to go through the records the search produce to weed out the irrelevant documents themselves, or 2) they’d produce it all and let Charles’ office weed it out themselves.  Charles’ office said they’d prefer that they just hand over all 40,000 documents and let his office weed it out themselves.

I’m told that there are even written correspondences at the time that confirms this.  I’m working on getting a copy of them through a public records request, but it takes time to get them through public records.

When the agency acknowledged that they had a problem because their software identified too many irrelevant documents in response to Charles’ subpoena, the agency offered to weed it out for them.  Instead, Charles’ office insisted on being given the irrelevant documentation, and then later, blasted the agency for producing the irrelevant documents that his office insisted it produce.

Charles’ report leaves this entirely out of context.  He breathlessly reported it as if the ODPS decided to simply clean out their file cabinets, and not that it was his office that insisted that they be given documents the ODPS told them were mostly irrelevant.  Even more absurd, Charles then publicly accused the agency of criminal obstruction without telling the public that the agency was just actually following his office’s instructions. 

He then accused them of further obstructing because they bates stamped the documents to protect against allegations that they did not produce certain document or to discourage leaking by the Inspector General (an office notorious for leaking).  Douglas ignores the absurdity of Charles’ allegations that stamping documents like parties regularly do in litigation is someone the criminal equivalent of not producing them at all.

I ordinarily like Michael Douglas’ column, but this one so easy to dissemble that it seemed out of character for Douglas.  Hopefully, Douglas will take a more critical look at this situation, and next time he’ll acknowledge that much of what the critics of Charles has alleged has already been proven to be correct just one week later.

Not a single editorial writer who has sided with Charles has apparently bothered to consult with a lawyer about Charles’ allegations.  I’ve yet to find a single lawyer who doesn’t find Charles’ criminal allegations to be downright laughable.  And we’ve gone yet another week without a single media outlet pointing out that its so laughable that the Franklin County Prosecutor is not pursuing them.

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