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Published: Tuesday, 6/3/2008

McCloskey's glad to be working in East Toledo market

BY KATE GIAMMARISE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
After serving his sentence for bribery, former city councilman Bob McCloskey stacks groceries in Toledo Food Market. As councilman, he said he helped at the store's grand opening. After serving his sentence for bribery, former city councilman Bob McCloskey stacks groceries in Toledo Food Market. As councilman, he said he helped at the store's grand opening.
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He once brought home the city government bacon for East Toledo as a high-flying councilman.

Now felon and former councilman Bob McCloskey feels lucky to have a job stacking potatoes in an east-side supermarket.

McCloskey, 62, who was released from a minimum-security federal prison May 6 and is living in a halfway house, appears to be having no trouble integrating back in the community.

He's already been called upon - and paid - to help recruit new members for the East Toledo business group, River East Associates.

And he has a job at the Toledo Food Market on Main Street.

"They're great people. They keep a very clean market," said McCloskey, who recalled that, as councilman, he had assisted at the store's grand opening.

Dan Steingraber, chairman of River East Associates, said McCloskey headed up a membership drive for the group, putting together a mailing letter, addressing envelopes, soliciting new members, and making phone calls, among other tasks.

McCloskey finished his work yesterday, Mr. Steingraber said.

Mr. Steingraber said his organization, a nonprofit agency serving East Toledo, approached McCloskey about the position.

"We had a need and the timing was perfect," Mr. Steingraber said.

He declined to discuss how much McCloskey was paid for the work.

"He was compensated for his time," Mr. Steingraber said.

Mr. Steingraber said McCloskey is not currently working on any other projects with the organization, though he might in the future.

He said he realizes some may frown on the group hiring someone who has been convicted of bribery.

"People are free to exercise their opinion," he said. "We are happy to have Bob back. He was a great district council person."

Mr. Steingraber said while on council McCloskey never directed any funds to the REA, which he said is entirely privately funded.

Store manager Pete Dabish said he gave McCloskey a job because he called and asked for help.

"We've known Bob for a long time - a very good person doing his job correctly. He needs to live," Mr. Dabish said.

A former factory worker whose dogged and plain-spoken community activism propelled him to the newly created District 3 seat on city council in 1993, McCloskey once maneuvered to be council president and talked about running for mayor.

He resigned in May, 2006, before pleading guilty in federal court to accepting $2,000 and $3,000 bribes from a businessman who was secretly working with the FBI.

He also pleaded no contest in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to bribery for trying to secure $100,000 from a Michigan charter-school operator in exchange for his support in a 2002 rezoning application.

A $10 million suit from that school operator is still pending against the city of Toledo.

McCloskey declined, on the advice of his lawyer, to talk about the circumstances that sent him to prison.

"I made a mistake," McCloskey said yesterday. "I was a good city councilman, not a smart politician."

He rejected the "country-club" label that he said has been applied to the Ashland, Ky., prison camp where he was held.

"It certainly wasn't fun by any stretch of the imagination. There wasn't anything to do there," he said. "You have very strict rules to follow."

He said he read the Bible, walked miles around the camp perimeter daily, and played horseshoes and basketball on the outdoor court.

McCloskey shared a cell with one other man, and he said many of his fellow inmates were in prison for drug offenses.

He had the assignment of "town driver," driving people or packages to places outside camp, such as the train station or the hospital. He said he never considered escaping.

He took a college course in horticulture, gardening, and landscaping and one in computer keyboarding - "anything to keep me busy."

He spent time every day in religious activity, either in Bible study or in religious services.

Slimmer by about 30 pounds, McCloskey said he feels healthy, having stopped smoking.

He said he got 250 pieces of mail from home, including from friends and family.

He professed gratitude to his wife, Barbara, and three children for their support, and regret for the humiliation he caused.

"It was a very, very difficult time for my family," McCloskey said. He said his wife used to make the 6 1/2-hour trip a couple of times a month to see him.

"I want to be home with my family," he said.

At the grocery store, McCloskey was greeted by one former acquaintance, Jeff Galyas, who said, "good to hear you're out."

"Well I'm glad to be out," McCloskey said.

As if McCloskey were still a councilman, Mr. Galyas mentioned that the Weber Block Building, which is owned by River East Economic Revitalization Corp. - a city-funded community development corporation with which McCloskey once worked closely - is for sale.

"I got some people that might be interested," Mr. Galyas, a tax professional, said.

"Good," said McCloskey.

Blade politics reporter Tom Troy contributed to this report.

Contact Kate Giammarise at:

kgiammarise@theblade.com

or 419-724-6133.



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