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Published: Wednesday, 12/27/2006

An in-your-face departure

GOV. Bob Taft will no doubt be making a number of last-minute appointments to judgeships and public boards and agencies before he leaves office Jan. 8, but his appointment of Toledo Municipal Court Judge Gene Zmuda to Lucas County Common Pleas Court does not bode well for other appointments still to come.

Judge Zmuda, Toledoans will recall, is the former city councilman whose memory failed him when asked if he knew, before it became public, about Bob McCloskey's 2002 bribe of a company that had a zoning request before council. An affidavit filed in connection with the case by an official of the company insisted Mr. Zmuda participated in two discussions about McCloskey's $100,000 request.

McCloskey's misdeeds were abundantly documented in both federal and state court earlier this year. He accepted his guilt after becoming the only local elected official in modern memory to be criminally indicted in office. He is now serving 27 months in federal prison. The damage done to the City was substantial and may continue for a long time to come.

If the information in the affidavit regarding Mr. Zmuda is accurate, why didn't he blow the whistle on his council colleague at the time? It was a fair question to ask, even if the governor didn't ask it, as he pondered the ethical qualifications of a judge he is looking to promote.

True to Bob Taft's nature, he appears to be doing nothing in his final days as governor to mitigate his unfortunate circumstance: He will leave office as a public pariah. It's a tragedy played out on a public stage, and every member of his distinguished political family should be ashamed of what he has done to the Taft name.

He doesn't need to make it worse with in-your-face appointments that many of the constituents he served so badly can only shake their head at.

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