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Published: Friday, 4/28/2006

McCloskey's ignominious end

SOMETIMES dishonor leaves only one honorable way out. To his credit, Bob McCloskey took it, resigning his seat on Toledo City Council Wednesday after 12 years of service, nearly all of it rendered on behalf of East Toledo and a portion of the south end.

At the finish, Mr. McCloskey simply was unable to function as a councilman any longer under the growing burden of felony bribery charges - which will go to trial shortly - as well as civil litigation alleging that he had sought $100,000 in exchange for his support on a zoning issue and, just two weeks ago, a new report that he was videotaped accepting $3,000 as part of a federal sting operation.

All in all, it is a pattern of alleged misconduct that made his continued service on council virtually impossible. He was absent from recent council meetings, in fact, as his legal troubles mounted.

Our editorial call a week ago for his resignation was followed by similar comments from some of his colleagues, and it seemed only a matter of time before he accepted the reality of his situation.

We must stress that Mr. McCloskey has been convicted of nothing and deserves at least a legal presumption of innocence.

But even if he should be acquitted on the criminal charges, even if the allegations against him cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, his conduct still doesn't meet the integrity standard Toledoans have a right to expect from their elected representatives.

While the legal system will rightly require proof of his guilt, the court of public opinion applies different rules, often relying only on a preponderance of the evidence. Sometimes nothing more than a perception of unethical conduct is enough to erode public trust to the point of no return.

Toledoans who voted for Mr. McCloskey, four times for his district seat and once last fall for an at-large seat, can feel betrayed by his fall from grace.

Certainly we feel disappointment as well, having endorsed him in all of his district races. We withheld our support only once: when he ran back in November for an at-large seat, an obvious end-run around the City Charter's term limits for councilmen.

In that regard, Mr. McCloskey leaves council with a rare distinction. He may be the only councilman in Toledo history who will have to be replaced twice in four months. Taylor Balderas was appointed in January to take his District 3 seat after he relinquished it for his citywide race, and now that he has resigned his at-large seat, another council appointment will be necessary.

Many Toledoans may feel a measure of sympathy for the ignominious conclusion to Bob McCloskey's political career, but they should regret even more his apparent inability to separate right from wrong.

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