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Published: Thursday, 11/3/2005

Another ex-Taft aide faces scrutiny

BY JAMES DREW AND STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Douglas Moormann may have been part of the  Noe Supper Club,  where expensive meals often were paid for by Tom Noe. 
Douglas Moormann may have been part of the Noe Supper Club, where expensive meals often were paid for by Tom Noe.
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COLUMBUS A second former high-ranking aide to Gov. Bob Taft may face criminal charges for accepting a loan and free meals from GOP fund-raiser Tom Noe.

The state Ethics Commission has referred its investigation of Douglas Moormann, who served as the governor s executive assistant for business and industry, to prosecutors for review, said Lara Baker, chief legal counsel for the Columbus prosecutor s office.

Yesterday, Ms. Baker said no decision had been made on whether to file charges against Mr. Moormann, who received a $5,000 loan from Mr. Noe in 2004, after he had left the governor s office.

We re still reviewing it, she said.

After Mr. Moormann left the governor s staff, he was a member of the Transportation Review Advisory Council, which reviews transportation projects for the

Ohio Department of Transportation. He did not disclose the loan on his required annual ethics statement or list Mr. Noe, a Maumee coin dealer, as a creditor.

The ethics commission referral also lists Mr. Moormann as a beneficiary of the Noe Supper Club, a group of Columbus insiders who accepted lavish dinners from the coin dealer at Morton s steakhouse, a popular up-scale hangout for the politically connected.

Mr. Noe s attorneys have said that Mr. Moormann knew that the Republican fund-raiser managed a $50 million rare-coin investment for the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.

The investment is at the heart of a statewide scandal that has spawned numerous investigations. Mr. Noe was indicted by a federal grand jury in Toledo last week for allegedly laundering money to the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Columbus City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer, whose office has handled recent ethics charges against government officials, said yesterday that Ms. Baker had briefed fellow prosecutors on the referral from the Ethics Commission.

Under state law, public officials must report the source of gifts valued above $75 and must disclose the sources of loans.

It is a first-degree misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, to knowingly fail to disclose gifts or loans on an annual financial disclosure form.

Mr. Moormann was chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Maureen O Connor and Governor Taft s executive assistant for criminal justice and public safety from the start of Mr. Taft s first term in 1999 to May, 2001. He then served as executive assistant for business and industry for the governor from May, 2001, to July, 2003.

If charged and convicted, Mr. Moormann would be the latest member of Mr. Taft s administration to be convicted of an ethics violation this year, joining the governor, and two other high-ranking officials.

wMr. Taft pleaded no contest in August to four misdemeanor charges that he knowingly failed to disclose dozens of golf outings and gifts he received from lobbyists and businessmen, including a May 13, 2001, golf outing with Mr. Noe at Toledo s exclusive Inverness Club.

Mr. Taft was found guilty, fined $4,000 and ordered to apologize to Ohioans.

wIn July, Brian Hicks, Mr. Taft s former chief of staff, was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine after he was convicted on a misdemeanor charge for failing to report below-market stays at Mr. Noe s Florida Keys vacation home in 2002 and 2003.

wMr. Hicks executive assistant, Cherie Carroll, was convicted on an ethics violation in July for accepting expensive meals paid for by Mr. Noe that could have influenced her in her job. She was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

Mr. Hicks resigned as Mr. Taft s chief of staff in 2003 to start his own lobbying and consulting firm, and Ms. Carroll joined him.

That firm, Hicks Partners, was hired by the Bush-Cheney campaign and the Republican National Committee to raise money for the President s re-election campaign. The fund-raising included an October, 2003, lunch event in Columbus that raised $1.4 million for the campaign.

Mr. Noe s indictment last week stemmed from allegations that he laundered $45,400 into President Bush s re-election campaign at the fund-raiser.

Mark Rickel, Mr. Taft s press secretary, declined comment yesterday about the Ethics Commission referring its investigation of Mr. Moormann to city prosecutors.

Mr. Moormann was not the only member of the governor s staff to be given money from Mr. Noe after he left to become a lobbyist. H. Douglas Talbott, another former top aide, has said he accepted a $39,000 loan from Mr. Noe in 2002 to help him purchase a home in Lakeside, Ohio. He also failed to disclose the loan on his annual financial disclosure statement. Mr. Talbott has not been charged.

Mr. Moormann could not be reached for comment last night.

State Sen. Marc Dann, a Democrat from suburban Youngstown and outspoken critic of the Taft administration, said yesterday that investigators must turn over every rock and follow every lead as they examine what transpired in Ohio government.

The Moormann referral, Mr. Dann said, clearly shows that the investigation is just starting and nowhere near complete.

From fall, 2002, until last year, Mr. Noe held court at what friends called the Noe Supper Club in the wood-paneled private boardroom at Morton s near the Statehouse in Columbus. He always picked up the tab.

There were eight or nine Noe Supper Club parties, which featured expensive steaks, drinks, and large tips.

E-mails released by the governor s office show the close relationship that Mr. Noe had with members of the governor s staff.

In an e-mail from Ms. Carroll to Mr. Moormann, she referred to Mr. Noe simply as Noe : Noe told me to tell you he was stopping by today around 2:30 p.m., she wrote in a message to Mr. Moormann on Feb. 20, 2003.

In July, 2003, when Mr. Moormann announced he was leaving the governor s office to become vice president of governmental affairs for the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Noe was invited to his going-away party.

I ll be in Cinci and need to get back for the Maggie and Bernie Show!!!! Mr. Noe wrote in an e-mail to Ms. Carroll, referring to Lucas County Commissioner Maggie Thurber, and his wife, Bernadette. Give Doug a big hug for me... :)

Contact James Drew at:jdrew@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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