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  Wednesday, June 18, 2003

 Local News


Taft: AK campaign 'baseless'
Advertisement accuses governor of 'waging war' on the company


News Journal


MANSFIELD -- Gov. Bob Taft lashed out at AK Steel Corp. on Tuesday, calling the company's recent media campaign "reprehensible."

In a strongly worded letter to AK Steel Chairman Richard Wardrop Jr., Taft characterized the campaign as "baseless ... aggressive misinformation."

The letter implied the company was trying to position the state to take the blame for "possible impending changes in AK's operations in Ohio," Taft said.

"Attempts to position the State of Ohio at odds with your employees, retirees and their communities are unprofessional, inaccurate and unwarranted," Taft wrote.

Sunday, AK Steel took out full-page ads in several newspapers, including the News Journal, in which it accused the governor of "waging war on the employees of AK Steel and their families in Ohio while doling out aid to our competitors."

The letter from the governor vehemently denied it.

"I take offense at your statement," it said.

Monday, the company issued a news release that said the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency "deliberately manipulated and overstated the level of PCBs" it found in a creek that runs through AK Steel property in Middletown, Ohio.

"Your interest appears ... to be ... in ignoring the law and OEPA's responsibility for enforcement," Taft told Wardrop.

Alan McCoy, vice president of public affairs for AK Steel, declined to comment directly on Taft's charges or the possibility of plant reductions.

"I can only say we will continue to disagree on a number of issues," he said.

As for the company's dispute with the Ohio EPA, McCoy said the agency consistently uses testing methods that are absolutely unacceptable in an attempt to win its lawsuit against the company for environmental contamination. He said he expects the 3-year-old lawsuit to go to trial later this year.

Bill Cuffindaffer, vice president of United Steelworkers of America Local 169, said he agreed with at least one part of Taft's letter.

"Attacking employees isn't what the state has been doing. It's what AK Steel has been doing for the last four years," he said.

dbenson@nncogannett.com

(419) 521-7272

Originally published Wednesday, June 18, 2003

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