FORMER City Councilman Bob McCloskey's acceptance of guilt on federal and state bribery charges, and his pending sentencing, mark the sad end of a political career compromised by legal, moral, and ethical misjudgments - and behavior that can only be characterized as stupid.
McCloskey and the justice system saw a lot of each other on Monday. First he appeared in U.S. District Court to plead guilty to two federal counts of bribery after accepting $5,000 in two installments from an unidentified businessman working with the FBI.
Then it was off to Lucas County Common Pleas Court, where McCloskey pleaded no contest to one more felony count of bribery stemming from his 2002 demand of a $100,000 payment from a developer in exchange for the councilman's help in getting a rezoning change approved.
Under the terms of the plea agreements, his federal and state sentences could be served concurrently, and given his status as a first-time offender, he could be looking at between 27 and 33 months in prison.
Considering the seriousness of his offenses, that is a very good deal indeed for McCloskey. The federal charges alone carry a maximum sentence of 20 years each, a recognition that bribery, when perpetrated by an elected official, is an especially egregious abuse of the public's trust. At age 60, had he pushed for a trial and been convicted, he could have been looking at a much longer term that would have kept him behind bars the rest of his life.
Some in this community will feel a twinge of sympathy for McCloskey, a Democrat. Though he won election last fall as an at-large city councilman, all but a few months of his 12 years on council were spent representing District 3, the East Side and a portion of South Toledo, and he did it with a bull-in-a-china-shop focus. For many, he was Joe Everyman, a guy comfortable in his own skin but not in a suit and tie.
Also, there has been no suggestion that the $100,000 payment he sought from the Michigan developer was intended for McCloskey's pocket - he wanted the money for a prescription drug fund for his fellow retirees at Pilkington plc.
But the man engaged in serious criminal behavior - the worst example of bribery by a public official in northwest Ohio in memory - and it was about as brazen as it could be. He even noted the irony, during his taped conversation with the businessman offering him cash, that he had to head off to City Hall for a seminar on ethics.
Rather than sympathy, McCloskey's former constituents should feel sorrow and a clear sense of betrayal. This is a man they elected to public office five times, perceiving him, as did we, as a council maverick unafraid to speak his mind. Only once in his political career did we fail to endorse him, and that was last November, when he ran for his at-large seat instead of honoring the intent of council term limits.
Joe Everyman, however, had a serious character flaw that ultimately brought him down, and it's painful for us all to watch.
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