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Published: Wednesday, 11/16/2005

GOP chief won't ask 2 officials to resign

BY MIKE WILKINSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Republicans and Democrats traded shots yesterday over calls that two Toledo-area public officials should resign because of their roles in the Tom Noe money-laundering case.

Days after State Rep. Chris Redfern (D., Catawba Island) said that City Councilman Betty Shultz and Lucas County Commissioner Maggie Thurber should step down, Ms. Thurber returned the criticism and the head of the Lucas County GOP said such calls are premature.

"It's highly inappropriate for any elected official, without verifiable facts, to be judge, jury, and executioner for anyone else," Ms. Thurber said. However, she also declined to talk about the details of the case, on the advice of her attorney, and would not say if she intends to resign.

"I stand by my statement," she said.

Doug Haynam, chairman of the county Republican Party, also said that Ms. Shultz still has the support of the Toledo voters who re-elected her last week to another term on City Council.

"Evidently the voters of the city of Toledo didn't feel the current state of affairs warranted turning her out of office," Mr. Haynam said yesterday.

Ms. Shultz and Ms. Thurber were among 13 people named in an affidavit sworn out in April by an FBI agent who successfully got a warrant to search Mr. Noe's former Maumee condominium. The Blade obtained a copy of the affidavit last week.

In it, investigators revealed they had copies of checks that indicate Mr. Noe gave the 13 people $31,100 in checks and that they then wrote checks for a fund-raiser in Columbus for President Bush.

Mr. Noe was indicted by a federal grand jury in October on three counts related to using "conduits" to funnel a total of $45,400 into the Bush campaign. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on bond.

None of the alleged conduits has been indicted. Prosecutors and defense lawyers have indicated that some were told they would not be prosecuted if they cooperated with investigators.

A number of the 13 testified before the grand jury, including Ms. Shultz and Ms. Thurber.

Mr. Redfern sent a letter Monday to Bob Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, asking that he seek the resignations. The House minority leader said Mr. Bennett should keep a vow he allegedly made in July that the party would "clean out any bad apples" in the party.

The letter was delivered to the party's headquarters Monday; Mr. Bennett's office did not respond to a call for comment yesterday.

Mr. Haynam said the party does not condone unethical behavior. But he said the investigation, which is still open, has not been resolved and Ms. Shultz and Ms. Thurber have not told their "side of the story."

"I would like to know the whole story," he said.

Mr. Redfern angrily responded, saying that Ms. Thurber ran a campaign against former commissioner Sandy Isenberg in which she attacked Ms. Isenberg for accepting a roof from a contributor.

One of Ms. Thurber's best television ads focused specifically on the roof.

Mr. Redfern rhetorically asked whether Ms. Isenberg had been either convicted or indicted at the time.

"I'm just curious if the chairman knows the answers to those questions," he said.

Ms. Isenberg was not indicted. After she amended her state ethics form in which she disclosed the roof, the Ohio Ethics Commission did not pursue prosecution, as it has in the case of Gov. Bob Taft and his former chief of staff Brian Hicks.

"It's an absurdity," Mr. Redfern said. "This cynical response by the chariman of the Lucas County Republican Party will be remembered on Election Day."

As elected officials, Ms. Thurber and Ms. Shultz have been given materials by the Ohio secretary of state that outline election law. In them are listed state laws on campaign finance, which includes a similar provision to the federal laws Mr. Noe allegedly broke: You cannot give or receive contributions from someone that are really from another person.

Ms. Isenberg, contacted yesterday, said politicians should be aware of those laws.

"These are [veteran] politicians here," she said. "They know what the rules are."

Contact Mike Wilkinson at:

mwilkinson@theblade.com

or 419-724-6104.



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