Toledo-area attorney and former Democratic congressional candidate Ben Konop sued the Lucas County Republican Party yesterday to recover $58,000 it received in loans from GOP fund-raiser Tom Noe that were not repaid.
Alleging that taxpayers were the loans' ultimate source, Mr. Konop asked the court to impose a restraining order against the party until the case is resolved.
The order would have kept the GOP branch from spending campaign funds during the week before the Nov. 8 election.
Without listening to an argument from the defendants, Judge Charles Doneghy denied the request.
The judge said there was lack of evidence to show the plaintiff would suffer irreparable damage if the restraining order wasn't granted.
"Konop is a politician looking for his next race," said Doug Haynam, interim chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party.
"This had nothing to do with vindicating the rights of employers and workers in the state of Ohio," Mr. Haynam said.
"If he was really interested in recovering money for those folks, he wouldn't sue an orga-nization with less than $8,000 available to address those needs."
Representing Inside Angles, a Holland picture framer, Mr. Konop said the party should be able to meet its debt obligations.
"I don't think that they have the resources to pay it off at once, but they certainly have the resources to begin making payments," he said.
Indicted last week on charges of laundering donations to President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, Mr. Noe previously managed a $50 million rare coin investment for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.
In a civil lawsuit, Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro has accused Mr. Noe of stealing $4 million from that investment to purchase vacation homes and repay commercial loans.
After reviewing letters written by Mr. Konop, the attorney general refused to sue the county party directly.
Mr. Noe loaned the party $40,000 in 2002 and $25,000 in 2004, according to records at the Lucas County Board of Elections. Records show a $2,000 repayment on the first loan in August, 2003 and a $5,000 repayment on the second one in December, 2004.
The party reclassified the loans as contributions this summer, claiming its former chairman, Mr. Noe's wife, Bernadette, approved them without informing the executive committee.
Mr. Haynam said the first loan came from the Noes' private equity line, according to missing financial records that Cosette Woodward, a former party employee, gave him this week.
Court proceedings will now determine whether the party appropriately reclassified the loan.
"I would hope that this could be resolved amicably," Mr. Konop said. "And I would hope that the Lucas County Republican Party would want to do the right thing and repay its loan obligation."
Noting the second loan's Dec. 17, 2004, repayment, Mr. Haynam said his party was a victim of the Noes' "collusion."
"It was one of the last things that Bernadette authorized before she announced that she was going to resign," he said.
Blade staff writer Mark Reiter contributed to this report.
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