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Published: Saturday, 7/25/2009

Florida judge ends 15-year marriage of Noe, wife

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A Florida judge this week ended the 15-year marriage of Tom and Bernadette Noe, the once formidable power couple who hobnobbed with President George W. Bush and Gov. Bob Taft before scandal drove the Noes from Toledo and the state.

My husband and I love each other; however, we each have different interests and goals, Ms. Noe, 49, who is keeping the Noe name, told a Monroe County, Florida, judge who on Thursday granted the couple a dissolution, six days after they filed a petition for it.

Both Noes are past chairmen of the Lucas County Republican Party.

And according to their court case filings, both are fairly soaked in debt.

Documents filed in their petition for simplified dissolution show the couple together owe almost $3 million not including the $13.7 million in restitution that Tom Noe owes the state of Ohio and $2.9 million he owes Lucas County for court costs.

While Ms. Noe continues to work as a lawyer in the Florida Keys, residing in what was once their shared $5 million oceanfront home, Tom Noe, 55, is rounding out the first of his 18 years at the Hocking Correctional Facility in southern Ohio.

Considering Noe s claim of $0 annual income, Ohio prosecutors aren t expecting him to square his accounts soon.

I don t think we ll get an awfullot there, said John Weglian, chief of the special units division for the Lucas County Prosecutor s Office.

Toledo lawyer Richard Walinski, who represented Tom Noe on federal charges that he illegally funneled $45,000 to the Bush/Cheney campaign in 2003, said he isn t sure if or when he will receive the $15,000 Noe owes him.

Tom has more serious problems I guess than that, Mr. Walinski told The Blade.

Noe was found guilty in 2006 of stealing $13.7 million from the rare coin funds that he created and managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation. Prosecutors said the coin money allowed him to finance a lavish lifestyle of vacation homes and profligate spending.

The scandal engulfing Noe and the bureau which followed a series of articles in The Blade led to nearly 20 criminal convictions, including that of former Ohio Governor Taft on ethics charges. Noe is appealing the verdict.

Before arriving at state prison in southeast Ohio, Noe served nearly two years in a Florida federal prison following his conviction for making illegal contributions to the former president s re-election campaign.

Although Ms. Noe stayed dry as legal troubles swamped her husband, her personal finances appear underwater.

She reported a net monthly income of $3,823.

Her average expenses, however, come in at $8,525 each month.

At that rate of spending, she would exhaust her $13,000 in cash assets before the end of the year.

She would find little financial security in her oceanfront home on Key Largo, with a swimming pool, waterfall, and a concrete rock sculpture modeled on the notorious grotto at the Playboy Mansion.

Once valued at nearly $5 million, the home s value has sunk with the Florida real estate market to $2.6 million, according to her asset filings.

Ohio officials have not been able to seize the home to regain some of the millions Tom Noe stole from the state because it has always been in Ms. Noe s name.

But Tom Noe s Columbus lawyers haven t had that problem.

The Noes signed a promissory note with the law firm of Thompson Hine for $1.8 million, secured by a second mortgage on the home, so the firm would represent him in his state criminal case.

Ms. Noe pays $2,300 a month in mortgage payments on the $735,000 she owes on the home, and $2,100 for property taxes.

She owes $10,000 in charge card and related expenses.

Other monthly expenses listed by Ms. Noe include, but are not limited to:

• $1,000 for home insurance.

• $600 for electricity.

• $400 for phone expenses.

• $575 for automobile costs.

• $500 for lease payments on two 2009-model Honda cars.

• $150 for pool care.

• $100 for mental health counseling.

• $50 for pet care.

• $50 for religious organizations.

• $35 for pest control.

Tom and Bernadette Noe married on New Years Eve 1993.

It was a second marriage for both and each had children.

The couple soon forged one of the state s most dominant husband-wife political partnerships of recent years.

Tom Noe served as chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party from 1992 to 1995, and won plum gubernatorial appointments to the Ohio Turnpike Commission and the Ohio Board of Regents, which controls the state s universities even though he never graduated from college.

Ms. Noe served as chairman of the local Republican Party from 2002 to 2005, and was a regular presence at charity balls and fund-raisers.

Her charms were appreciated by governors and presidents alike, with then President George W. Bush calling her Bernie .

The Noes were at Mr. Bush s inaugural balls both times he was sworn in as president, and Tom Noe had access to White House officials, including Karl Rove. Noe was appointed to an advisory committee to the U.S. Mint, a choice post for a rare-coin dealer.

Doors in Washington opened for Tom Noe after he became a Bush Pioneer, an elite group of Republican fund-raisers who bundled contributions of at least $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

In 1998, the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation gave the GOP fund-raiser the first of two $25 million infusions to invest in a rare-coin venture he set up that ultimately unraveled after state officials raided his Monclova Township office and discovered he had been stealing millions from the state funds beginning on the day he first received the money.

Though often critical of the media coverage her husband later received, Ms. Noe has not shied from the spotlight since his conviction.

In a profile published in July in Marie Claire magazine, she told an interviewer she contemplated divorce after her husband recently confessed that he d strayed in the early years of their marriage.

As therapy, she told the magazine, they began exchanging through the mail written exercises from a Christian self-help book.

Past associates of Tom and Bernadette Noe expressed surprise yesterday when learning of the dissolution.

While often a critic of the Noes, Jon Stainbrook, chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, said he couldn t imagine it.

They perfectly complemented each other, he said.

I just thought they would be together forever. They were such a power couple. Why now? She stood by him all this time. What happened?

Contact JC Reindl at:jreindl@theblade.comor 419-724-6065.



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