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Published: Wednesday, 12/27/2006

State Supreme Court publicly reprimands Taft for ethics violations

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS Twelve days before he leaves office with the lowest approval numbers on record, Gov. Bob Taft this morning received a public reprimand against his law license from the Ohio Supreme Court as a result of his misdemeanor ethics convictions last year.

The court voted 6-0 to approve a deal worked out earlier this year with the court s disciplinary counsel. Mr. Taft avoids a potential suspension or even revocation of the law license he has held 30 years but had placed on inactive status while serving as governor.

The Republican governor had agreed that he violated the attorney s Code of Professional Responsibility that required him to not engage in any conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer s license to practice law.

Mr. Taft pleaded no contest in 2005 to four first-degree misdemeanor counts of failing to report golf outings and other gifts worth $75 or more from those seeking to do business with the state on his annual financial disclosure statements.

Among them were gifts from Tom Noe, the former Maumee coin dealer now serving time on convictions related to federal campaign finance stemming from the 2004 president election and state theft charges stemming from his operation of a $50 million investment fund for the state Bureau of Workers Compensation.

Mr. Taft was fined $4,000 and was ordered to issue an e-mail apology to media outlets and state employees.

He was the first Ohio governor to be convicted on crimminal charges.

In a six-page opinion, the court noted that a panel of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline that reviewed the case was convinced Mr. Taft did not act out of dishonesty or selfishness.

According to an ethics commission investigative report, no evidence suggested that respondent was given gifts as compensation for any act or omission, reads the opinion.

The board, however, noted that the legal profession demands adherence to the highest standards of honesty and integrity, and lawyers who hold public office must be especially scrupulous in this regard.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel, an arm of the state Supreme Court, said in April that Mr. Taft violated Ohio s code of professional conduct for lawyers, and the governor later signed an agreement admitting to the violation.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.



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