Wednesday, August 17, 2005

 

More on Taft charges

[Welcome Kos readers!]

Today's news conference with Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and Columbus City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. confirmed the nature of the charges and provided some new info.

Regarding the charges, O'Brien and Pfeiffer confirmed our intelligence that the Ethics Commission identified 52 violations. In explaining why there are only 4 charges, the prosecutors said that since the Governor's financial reports are filed on an annual basis, they separate violations were grouped by year in the years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

When reporters asked about violations for things other than for golf outings, the prosecutors said the charges also involve gifts such as meals and tickets to the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey games.

Reporters also asked if there were any ethics violations that were prior to 2001. The prosecutors acknowledge that there were allegations from 1998, 1999 and 2000 but they felt they couldn't make them hold up in court since the Ethics Commission didn't issue its advisory about the illegality of golf outings until 2001.

If guilty, Taft could face a maximum of 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Word on the street is that at least three more of Taft current or former staff will face similar charges, and we hope to post more information on that later today.

[Update]: For some readers who want to know more about the pressure on Taft to resign (impeachment is about as likely as us winning a marathon) we offer the following from the Columbus Dispatch about others in his administration that Taft has been forced to sack after nearly identical ethics scandals were uncovered:
• Randall A. Fischer resigned as director of the Ohio School Facilities Commission in July 2002. He pleaded guilty to a pair of misdemeanors for accepting free rounds of golf, hockey tickets and meals from contractors to whom he awarded unbid contracts worth millions. Nine out of 10 contractors who received unbid school construction work under Fischer contributed to Gov. Bob Taft’s campaign.

• The state’s former utility watchdog, Consumers’ Counsel Robert S. Tongren, quit in November 2003 after an investigation found that he had accepted dozens of expensive golf outings and meals from utility lobbyists. He admitted to four misdemeanors.

• When an investigation in September 2003 showed that Richard P. Frenette, manager of the state fair, and other employees improperly accepted golf passes and other favors from vendors doing business with the fair Taft called on the Ohio Expositions Commission to "take prompt and appropriate action." Frenette quit two days later.

• Taft issued a quit-or-be-fired ultimatum in August 2002 to Ohio Turnpike Commission director Gino Zomparelli, the day after a probe found that he and 30 other turnpike officials were showered with golf outings, free meals and sports tickets by companies doing business with the agency. Zomparelli quit the next day. Investigators remarked that in their combined experience they had never seen any state agency receive such a level of gratuities.
And, keep in mind that Taft is the first sitting Ohio governor to be charged with crimes.

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