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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Inspector General Confirms That Frankie Coleman Received Pay She DIdn't Earn and Lied to Investigators

Frankie Coleman, wife of the Columbus mayor and a long-time friend of Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D-Shaker Heights) who hired her for a $70,000 state job in February, has been found to have received pay for 56 hours over 13 work days when she was absent without permission, and to have initially lied to investigators about it. The city prosecutor's office is considering whether to bring charges, while Coleman is in a rehab facility outside the state after resigning from her position.

The Inspector General's report on Frankie Coleman is here, and coverage in the Columbus Dispatch is here. GOP leaders are screaming about corruption, cronyism, and theft. It is important to keep the whole thing in perspective by bearing in mind that the IG found that Coleman was qualified for the job, and that her supervisor was fired for reasons other than complaining about Coleman's absenteeism. Gov. Ted Strickland (D-New Lisbon) should get some credit for requesting the investigation immediately after allegations were reported in the Dispatch. However, this episode is unquestionably a black eye for Fisher, who hired Coleman with knowledge of her alcoholism and apparently did very little to keep tabs on her. The report criticizes Fisher specifically for failing to recognize that hiring Coleman was a mistake:
Coleman’s absenteeism is attributable to her alcohol dependency, for which she is now seeking treatment. It is equally attributable both to her failure to adhere to departmental policies pertaining to attendance and timekeeping and to DOD’s failure to properly communicate those policies to Coleman and then adequately supervise her in order to assure her compliance.

We also question the actions and conduct of Fisher and other DOD officials, who ignored or were oblivious to warning after warning that Coleman’s personal problems were interfering with her job duties. Her poor attendance while working for the transition team, Fisher’s observations about her drinking, her chronic absenteeism, her obviously incorrect timesheets, Haseley’s call on April 6 – all were red flags that Coleman’s hiring was a mistake, regardless of her qualifications.
Fisher has acknowledged errors occurred in the management of the department that he runs, and he accepts responsibility for such errors, as he should. However, the extent of the political damage will be determined by how effectively changes are implemented to make sure that there are no similar situations occurring and that appropriate personnel policies are in place and enforced in the future. Meanwhile, the episode is plainly a disappointment to supporters of this administration and to fans of Lee Fisher personally.

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