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Published: Thursday, 6/2/2005

STATE OF TURMOIL

Ex-Taft aide got $39,000 from Noe

'Loan' used to help buy house in Lakeside, Ohio

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
H. Douglas Talbott's Lakeside home is about a 15-minute drive from Tom and Bernadette Noe s former Catawba Island home.
H. Douglas Talbott's Lakeside home is about a 15-minute drive from Tom and Bernadette Noe s former Catawba Island home.
THE BLADE/ALYSSA SCHUKAR Enlarge | Buy This Photo

COLUMBUS -- A former high-ranking aide to Gov. Bob Taft accepted $39,000 from Tom Noe so he could buy a house in Lakeside, Ohio.

H. Douglas Talbott, who worked for Mr. Taft and former Republican Gov. George Voinovich, said he accepted the money as a loan from Mr. Noe in September, 2002 after leaving the governor's office in May, 2000, to become a lobbyist.

Mr. Talbott, 41, said he has not repaid the money to Mr. Noe, but he plans to do so with interest.

"I approached him about repaying it three times and he said, I want to wait until you are a bit more established," Mr. Talbott told The Blade.

Mr. Talbott did not list the $39,000 loan from Mr. Noe as a gift in his ethics form covering 2003.

State law requires public officials to list each source of gifts over $75 received in their name or by any other person for their use or benefit.

State law does not require officials to disclose the "nature of the gift."

Mr. Talbott also did not list Mr. Noe as a creditor.

Last night, Mr. Talbott said he will list Mr. Noe as a creditor on his ethics form covering 2004.

Last week, the Ethics Commission returned Mr. Talbott's statement because he didn't fill it out completely.

Mr. Noe's lawyers told law enforcement officials last week that $10 million to $12 million was missing from a rare-coin fund he established in 1998 with money from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.

Mr. Noe is also under investigation by the FBI for suspicion of laundering political contributions to the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign. A federal grand jury convened in Toledo yesterday to hear testimony about the case.

As the governor's director of boards and commissions from the start of Mr. Taft's term in 1999 to May 2000, Mr. Talbott consulted with Mr. Noe on candidates for appointments in northwest Ohio.

Reappointed in 1999

Mr. Noe, who was appointed by Mr. Voinovich to the Ohio Board Regents to complete a vacated term, was reappointed by Mr. Taft in 1999 to a full term.

Mr. Talbott also handled state appointments when Mr. Noe was appointed to the state's commemorative quarter committee.

But it was Mr. Taft and his then-chief of staff, Brian Hicks not Mr. Talbott who had the final say in who received those appointments.

Mr. Talbott said the selections of Mr. Noe for a full nine-year term on the Board of Regents and the commemorative coin committee were foregone conclusions or no-brainers because he was already a regent and was a prominent Toledo-area coin dealer.

"I was the funneling point for all the boards and commissions," he said.

Inquiry sought

But state Sen. Marc Dann, a Democrat from suburban Youngstown, said the U.S. attorney's office needs to examine Mr. Talbott's role in the governor's office and the $39,000 payment from Mr. Noe.

"Maybe Bob Bennett also ought to include that in his ethics training," said Mr. Dann, referring to the state GOP chairman who called last week for additional ethics training for GOP candidates.

Bill Wilkinson, Mr. Noe's attorney, said last night he had no information about the $39,000 loan to Mr. Talbott.

Mr. Talbott is the second high-ranking Taft aide with a financial link to Mr. Noe.

The Blade reported May 12 that Brian Hicks, when he was Mr. Taft's former chief of staff, twice rented a Florida home owned by Mr. Noe for family vacations and paid below market price for his spring-break stays in the home.

Mr. Hicks, who is now a lobbyist and consultant, said he did not disclose his vacations at the Noes $1.8 million home in the Florida Keys to the Ethics Commission because he felt he paid market value for the stay.

Rod Chu, chancellor of Ohio Board of Regents, confirmed on Tuesday that he had also stayed at Mr. Noe's Florida Keys home last year for three nights and disclosed the gift on his annual statement with the Ethics Commission.

The chancellor is hired and fired by the regents.

Mr. Talbott left the governor's office in 2000 to become a lobbyist. He is a principal with Hurst Government Consulting, based in Columbus, and his clients include Mannik & Smith, Manning & Napier Advisors, Poggemeyer Design Group, Inc., Sugeti USA LLC, and The Pizzuti Companies, according to the state agency that registers lobbyists.

In July, 2003, Mr. Taft appointed Mr. Talbott to the state Board of Cosmetology which examines applicants for licenses.

'We'd kind of dream'

Mr. Talbott said he and his wife, who live in a Columbus suburb, rented summer houses at Lakeside for a dozen or so years and would always check on what was for sale.

"We'd kind of dream," he said.

Mr. Talbott said when he noticed a house on the market in 2002, he contacted Fifth Third Bank, which said he needed another year under his belt as a lobbyist before he could get a loan.

"So I thought maybe Tom would know somebody," said Mr. Talbott, who added that Mr. Noe suggested calling a second bank, National City Bank.

When that bank also wouldn't make a loan, Mr. Talbott said Mr. Noe told him: "What if I just write the check for the downpayment as a loan?"

Mr. Talbott said he replied: "No, you can't do that."

"He was insistent," the lobbyist said.

"That to me meant so much, because I had not done anything for the guy. It really touched me."

Noe wrote check

Mr. Talbott said Mr. Noe either wrote the $39,000 check directly to the seller of the Lakeside home, Columbus real estate executive Larry Schottenstein, or Mr. Talbott signed it over to Mr. Schottenstein.

"It sounds familiar, but I couldn't even tell you whose name was on it," said Mr. Schottenstein, who is related to the leaders of the Columbus department store family.

"I had no dealings with Noe. I had dealings with Doug. He put down a large down payment. He leased the house for a year and then bought it."

Mr. Talbott said he thinks the check was written from the account of one of Mr. Noe's businesses, Vintage Coins & Collectibles.

"It never went into my account," said Mr. Talbott. "I then paid a construction loan to the seller for the first year, and then I got conventional financing a year later."

Mr. Talbott said the construction loan was half the amount of what the mortgage would have been.

According to Ottawa County property records, Mr. Talbott in July, 2003 bought the 1,350-square-foot home in Lakeside for $213,000.

The two-level, pale yellow home, with an inviting front porch that overlooks a park, rests on a gentle slope surrounded by tall trees.

Short walk to lake

Inside Lakeside, a gated community first founded as a Methodist camp, rests on the rocky banks of Lake Erie and looks onto Kelley's Island.

The home is not waterside, but it's a four-block walk to a shaded park with three tennis courts along the lake.

The tree-lined streets with names like Plum and Poplar, and the smallish homes, close together and sometimes decorated with pastel colors, lend an almost post-World War II era feel to the community.

Mr. Talbott said his Lakeside home is about a 15-minute drive from the former home of Tom and Bernadette Noe in Catawba Island.

Mr. Talbott said Mr. Noe told him he had written down the transaction as a loan, and he said they would discuss terms when he started to pay it back.

I ve never seen any documents. It was more of a handshake agreement, he said.

Mr. Talbott worked at Lakeside during summers when he attended Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.

He said he met his future wife, Susan, in Lakeside and even proposed to her at the nearby lighthouse on Memorial Day in 1989. I went to church camp there. It's a really special place to me, he said.

A former Brooks Brothers salesman, Mr. Talbott grew up in Akron and worked on Mr. Voinovich's successful gubernatorial campaign in 1990.

He worked in Mr. Voinovich's office as a scheduler and advance man from 1991 to 1994. He then worked from 1994 to 1998 in the state department of development, as the governor's representative for economic development in central Ohio and as a deputy director in charge of all the regional economic development offices.

He said he handled about 1,000 appointments as Mr. Taft's director of boards and commissions from the start of Mr. Taft's term in 1999 to May 2000, when he left to become a lobbyist.

Mr. Talbott said he met Mr. Noe in 1992 at Bowling Green State University. Mr. Talbott said he did advance work for Mr. Voinovich at the Buckeye Boys State event.

Blade staff writer Christopher Kirkpatrick contributed to this report. Contact James Drew atjdrew@theblade.comor 614-221-0496.



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