Columbus Dispatch - Taft filing lists up to 60 missed outings, sources say

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

(Columbus Dispatch)

Taft filing lists up to 60 outings, sources say
Wednesday, July 20, 2005 Alan Johnson THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH Gov. Bob Taft has filed documents with the Ohio Ethics Commission listing 50 to 60 golf outings and other events he previously failed to disclose, sources told The Dispatch. Neither Taft’s office nor the Ethics Commission yesterday would release the documents or confirm the filing. Taft’s staff members, after telling The Dispatch they had no public records on the matter, referred questions to William Meeks. The Columbus criminal attorney was hired by the governor to handle what Taft referred to as "errors and omissions" on his annual financial-disclosure statements covering a number of years. Meeks has not returned calls for the past several days. Sources said the governor cited up to 60 events, many of them golf outings. No other information was available. Among those with whom Taft reportedly played golf was Thomas W. Noe, a Maumee coin dealer. He is the focal point of state and federal investigations about a shortfall of up to $13 million in a Bureau of Workers’ Compensation investment as well as allegations that he disguised the source of political contributions to President Bush’s re-election campaign. Ohio ethics law requires officeholders and other officials to file annual statements disclosing the sources of gifts and other things of value. Golf outings, which can run $200 per person for greens fees, cart rentals and other charges, were ruled to be of substantial value in a 2001 ethics decision. If Taft knowingly filed a false financial-disclosure statement, he could face up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both. An ethics investigation was triggered by Taft’s admission on June 14 that he failed to file "a series of matters" that should have been disclosed. The law does not allow for amended ethics filings. "I stand ready to cooperate with any review the commission wishes to conduct and seek the commission’s guidance on how to make reimbursements and/or provide the appropriate disclosures," Taft wrote at the time. Taft responded after state Inspector General Thomas P. Charles asked the governor and some top staff members May 23 for records. Charles’ investigation showed that "certain members of the governor’s staff may have received lodging accommodations and other items" from Noe.


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