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Bernadette Noe exceeded her authority as chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party when she accepted $65,000 in loans for the party from her husband, Tom, the current chairman said yesterday.
The two loans were not properly approved by the party and have been reclassified as contributions, said Sally Perz, who took over the party in April.
The first loan, for $40,000 in October, 2002, helped the party buy television advertising for Maggie Thurber, who then was running for Lucas County commissioner. The second loan was for $25,000 in October, 2004.
Only $2,000 of the loans had been repaid before the money was reclassified as a contribution.
For the loans to have been properly approved, the party s executive committee would have needed to consider and approve them. That did not happen, Ms. Perz said.
They were not approved and the chairman did not have the authority to obligate the party for over $5,000 without a vote of the executive committee, she said.
No laws were broken, Ms. Perz said. However, the party s bylaws were not followed. Because the loans weren t valid, they now are recorded as campaign contributions.
Because there is no limit on contributions to local parties, the amount of the contributions should not be a problem for Mr. Noe, who is under intense scrutiny from several agencies and counties.
In a letter to the county board of elections, Ms. Perz wrote that the party determined the nature of the loans after it looked at minutes from prior meetings and talked with Mr. and Mrs. Noe. The Noes, the letter states, both said the contributions were never intended to be repaid.
Mrs. Noe resigned as chairman in December, saying she wanted to spend more time with her family. Since Ms. Perz took over, the party has been looking over records trying to determine its finances. It also has discovered that contributions made to the party last October have not been properly recorded.
Mrs. Noe could not be reached for comment.
In the waning days of the presidential campaign, Georgia Democrat Sen. Zell Miller campaigned for President Bush. As part of his trip, he was the guest of a fund-raiser at the Noes Maumee condominium.
More than 100 people attended, and some wrote checks to the party, including George Sarantou and Rob Ludeman, both Toledo councilmen who were co-hosts of the event. Neither of their contributions appears on any campaign finance reports.
When I walked in, that condo was packed wall-to-wall with people, Mr. Sarantou said. His wife made a dessert and he donated $50 from his campaign fund.
Susan Gilmore, a former treasurer of the party, said the money was collected, cashed, and deposited in the party s coffers. She said it is unclear in which fund the party has five different ones the money was deposited.
Those checks were absolutely deposited into some fund of the Republican Party, she said. It s just a matter of making sure it s documented in the report.
Ms. Gilmore said the fund-raiser did not raise a lot of money. Contributions were only suggested and many people who came to hear Mr. Miller did not contribute.
Because of apparent problems at the time of the filing deadline, Ms. Gilmore said she signed the report with the stipulation that it state that an amendment would be forthcoming.
I refused to sign the cover sheet when I looked and saw it [the report], she said yesterday.
An amendment is still in the works, she said.
We re trying to re-create the records, she said. It s an administrative glitch.
Meanwhile, an investigator with the Ohio Ethics Commission visited the board of elections on Wednesday and took out copies of the personnel records of Mr. and Mrs. Noe, former director Joe Kidd, and former board member Sam Thurber. The Noes were considered employees because they too were members of the election board.
In addition, the investigator also made copies of all of Ms. Thurber s campaign contributions, including her run for clerk of the Toledo Municipal Court.
Ms. Thurber said she had no idea why they would be looking at her records.
It s a public record, she said. And I would not even speculate [as to why].
David Freel, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said he could not comment on the matter.
The commission is one of 10 agencies looking into Mr. Noe s business dealings and political activities after revelations of his deal with the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation to manage $50 million in two rare-coin funds.
The U.S. attorney for northern Ohio also is looking into possible campaign contribution violations by Mr. Noe.
Ms. Perz and her daughter Allison testified before a federal grand jury last month. The grand jury is studying whether Mr. Noe gave money to others in order for them to donate to the Bush-Cheney re-election effort.
The Perzes both gave $2,000 to the Bush-Cheney campaign at an October, 2003, fund-raiser. They have declined to talk about what they told the grand jury but have said they have cooperated with authorities.
Contact Mike Wilkinson at:firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6104.
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