This weekend the Columbus Dispatch editorial page harshly chided Governor Strickland regarding the latest act of irresponsible behavior within his Administration:
Count the tardy firing of Joshua Engel, once a top attorney in the Department of Public Safety, as one more embarrassing consequence of Gov. Ted Strickland’s failure to make good appointments and insist on competent oversight in this important agency.
Engel, who was recommended for his job by an assistant to Kent Markus, Strickland’s chief legal adviser, is the official who first came to public notice after it was revealed that he conceived a clumsy and underhanded attempt to discredit Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles when Charles was investigating a botched operation of the State Highway Patrol.
Engel’s idea was to leak a classified document to Charles, in hopes that he would release it publicly – a violation of federal law that would expose Charles to criminal prosecution.
The scheme wasn’t carried out, but revelation of it resulted in Engel’s demotion to staff attorney. He should have been fired then; that sort of poor judgment and unethical behavior disqualify him for any public post.
Instead, he remained with the department long enough for more-serious misdeeds to be uncovered: While looking into the matter involving the plot against Charles, Public Safety officials discovered that, for at least the past year, Engel arranged with information-technology managers to send him copies of all e-mail correspondence from department employees to staff members of the inspector general’s office and The Dispatch.
Markus said Engel wasn’t fired sooner because the governor didn’t want to micromanage his agencies. But when an agency is being mismanaged, it’s the governor’s responsibility to step in and fix it. That’s not micromanagement. It’s Management 101.
This wasn’t some mid-level career bureaucrat. Engel was a top-level appointee of the Administration within one of the most vital agencies. But rather than suffer the embarrassment of firing Engel, the Governor punted.
Once again, politics triumphed over principle. And Ohio lost.