Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Republican Governor Of Ohio Faces Reprimand Of Ethics Reforms

The Republican culture of corruption in Ohio just keeps growing. Governor Bob Taft is now in trouble for voilating ethics laws:

Gov. Bob Taft faces a public reprimand for ethics violations under an agreement his attorney has reached with the state office that monitors lawyers’ behavior.

Taft, a Republican who has been an attorney since 1976, pleaded no contest last August to failing to report golf outings and other gifts while in office and was fined $4,000.

The Supreme Court’s disciplinary counsel, Jonathan Coughlan, filed a complaint this April saying Taft’s actions violated Ohio’s code of professional conduct for lawyers.

“I admit the violation ... as outlined in this agreement,” Taft wrote in an affidavit attached to a copy of the deal obtained Friday by The (Toledo) Blade.

The agreement faces approval by a disciplinary board and the Ohio Supreme Court.

Coughlan said he agreed to the deal because Taft admitted breaking a part of the code of conduct that states a lawyer shall not “engage in any other conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law.”

“He wasn’t denying anything. Our assessment is it is a public reprimand case, and he was admitting the violation,” Coughlan said.

The final decision on punishment, which could include suspending or taking away the governor’s law license, lies with the Supreme Court. Before the deal reaches the justices, a three-member panel of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline will determine whether to hold a public hearing or accept or reject the agreement, said Ruth Bope Dangel, the board’s staff attorney.

The panel’s recommendation will go to the full 28-member board of mostly lawyers and judges, which reports to the Supreme Court. If the panel, the board or the justices reject the agreement, a hearing will be held. Coughlan said the Supreme Court might not rule until the spring of 2007, which would be after Taft has left office.

“The governor has been upfront and has taken personal responsibility in these matters and he continues to do the same in this matter,” Taft spokesman Mark Rickel said.

The misdemeanor ethics charges against Taft and the professional complaint stemmed from the governor’s failure to report gifts worth nearly $6,000 that he received over four years. The case had spiraled off a scandal over state losses from investments in rare coins.

Taft, a great-grandson of President and later Chief Justice William Howard Taft, was the first Ohio governor to be charged with a crime while in office. He never considered resigning, but he forced out several staff members in the past for improperly accepting gifts.

Taft’s law license has been on inactive status since 2002, meaning he is not required to take 12 hours of continuing education each year or pay the $300 biennial license fee. Ohio lawyers on inactive status are not permitted to practice law but can be reinstated by meeting the continuing education and fee requirements.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said a public reprimand for Taft is probably appropriate.

“My goal is to reform the system, not make a whipping boy out of the governor,” he said.

Get a clue Mr. Boehner....this is your mess. Now fix it!