Loose Change

"Oops. I forgot to tell you about your missing 250 grand."

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Bruce Springsteen Wolstein Center at CSU Sunday, May 15
Sweet West Side children exchange thoughtful - dialogue and smack the PETA chicken.
Sweet West Side children exchange thoughtful dialogue and smack the PETA chicken.
Every novice magician learns enough sleight-of-hand to make coins disappear. But the trick is much less amusing when the coins represent a respectable chunk of the state's Workers' Comp fund investments. Which is just one of the reasons Tom Noe -- a rare-coin dealer who sat on the Ohio Turnpike Commission and the Ohio Board of Regents -- resigned from both posts last week.

To bring you up to speed: The state invested $50 million in a rare-coin fund run by Noe, who's a friend of Governor Taft and a supersized Republican campaign contributor -- the latter being the reason the state didn't invest in the more lucrative Jody Gerut rookie card market. Noe is now under investigation by the FBI for possible campaign-finance violations, and the fund is looking scary.

It turns out that as many as 121 state-owned coins are missing -- including two worth $250,000. Noe claims the two gold coins were "lost in the mail" and that the others were "misappropriated" by a former employee. But Noe neglected to notify the cops or let the state know that its 250 Large was missing.

Better yet, one of the coin managers Noe hired, Mark Chans, has a previous conviction for faking a coin transaction to launder drug money. Noe never bothered to do a background check.

So why did the governor entrust $50 million to a moron? Noe knows how to spread the lucre.

Aside from throwing money at the suits in Columbus, he also owns a swank Florida vacation home, which he coincidentally rented out twice to the governor's former chief of staff, Brian Hicks. It wouldn't have been a big deal, except that Hicks rented the place for $300 to $500 per week. Similar homes in the area usually rent for $2,000 to $3,500.

Civics lesson: This is how you land a $50 million deal with the state, boys and girls.

Last week, the state announced that it would pull its money out of the coin fund. The next day, Noe resigned his positions. Hopefully, he'll soon be bunking in Lucasville with a biker named Big Harry, who holds amorous feelings for middle-aged coin dealers.

Sucking for dollars
Speaking of Ohio's system of legalized bribery: Eight years ago, Akron industrialist David Brennan promised that he could better educate Ohio's poor and struggling children. Since then, he has opened 31 charter schools that now enroll 15,000 kids, making his company, White Hat Management, the ninth-largest school district in the state.

Brennan's schools also reel in $110 million a year in taxpayer money. That's a pretty good return on investment -- Brennan has contributed $3 million to state Republican leaders over the last three years, making him the largest GOP contributor in Ohio.

But a recent report by the Ohio Federation of Teachers shows that White Hat is a miserable failure. In almost every category, students in public schools outperform White Hat students on state proficiency tests. In fact, if White Hat played by the same rules as public districts, each of its schools would be in a state of academic emergency. But since it runs charter schools, White Hat is free to get $110 million a year, no strings attached, and still suck as much as it wants. That's just smart public policy.

So what does the Legislature do when confronted with such abject failure? Pursue greater failure, of course! The House recently passed a bill that would cap the number of new charter schools run by public districts (some of which are actually succeeding). But Brennan will be allowed to open all the schools he wants.

"We're creating a loophole to reward the worst schools in Ohio," says state Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo). "This is a shell game. It's pay-to-play."

A chicken's advice
Two ever-so-earnest PETA members arrived at Joseph Gallagher Middle School last week to protest chicken-eating, and they almost wound up as dinner.

Hundreds of sweet little West Side children circled volunteer Julie Kelton, who was dressed like a chicken and holding a sign that read, "I am not a nugget." Colleague Chris Link handed out trading cards with characters like Sickly Sally, pictured barfing all over herself, a box of fried chicken at her bedside.

Link tried to lecture the kids on the hellish conditions in chicken plants. "They're scalded alive in boiling vats of hot water!" he said.

"That's good!" exclaimed one eager-to-learn youngster.

"Chickens are faggots," remarked another.

"Does the chicken give head?" chimed in a third.

It was a thought-provoking exchange of ideas.

As Kelton waved to the nice children, they did what any normal kids do when confronted by a lady in a chicken suit. They taunted her and tried to knock her head off. "They smackin' the shit outta that chicken," laughed one observer.

Finally Kelton and Link decided to call it a day. But when Kelton started taking off her suit, the children showed their sensitive sides. "We in Cleveland. Call me when you horny," suggested one boy.

"Take it off, chicken. Take your top off," said another.

Link told the children to log onto PETA's website to see more of Kelton. "Is she naked?" asked a boy.

Link was pleased by the youngsters' aggressive curiosity. "It went well," he said. "The kids were into what we were handing out."

Truth or dare
Word of advice: If there's a chance that you might lose a bet that requires you to run around naked, make sure you don't do it near a police station.

On April 30, the Cleveland State and John Carroll rugby teams made a deal: The loser of their match would perform an act requested by the winner. Cleveland State lost. As punishment, the fine Catholic lads from John Carroll decided that Cleveland State should run around University Heights naked.

According to a police report, Edward Goins and Eric Barnett dropped their pants and started to sprint. All was going well. Then Officer Mark McArtor saw two "black males running nude in the yard" -- just three blocks from cop HQ. The students were courteously "holding a small article of clothing on top of their genitals," according to the police report. However, "their buttocks and the remainder of their bodies were exposed."

McArtor reported that the two amiably returned to a nearby house and "placed their underwear back on."

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