Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Taft didn’t tell of golf outings

Already under fire for his administration’s role in an investment scandal, Gov. Bob Taft admitted yesterday that he failed to disclose a number of golf outings as required by state law.

One of Taft’s playing partners on at least one occasion was scandal-tarred Toledo coin dealer Thomas W. Noe, a wellplaced source said on condition of anonymity. The men played at Toledo’s storied Inverness Club, the source said.

But it was unclear whether Taft was required to disclose to the Ohio Ethics Commission any golf he played with Noe. If the governor paid his own way, he would not be required to report it.

Taft’s office refused to confirm that Noe and the governor played golf together at Inverness, where Noe is a member, but Taft did ’fess up to a number of previously undisclosed outings with still-to-be-named golf partners.

The admission will prompt an investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission, which could refer charges to the Franklin County prosecutor. If Taft knowingly filed a false financial-disclosure statement, he could face up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.
Taft and administration officials have faced hard questions in recent weeks about a pair of investment scandals brewing at the bureau, including the coin investment with Noe and the loss of $215 million invested with MDL Capital Management of Pittsburgh.

The rush to amend disclosure statements followed subpoenas for records issued by state Inspector General Thomas P. Charles to Taft, members of his staff and other public officials. On May 23, Charles asked Taft’s office for records because he found during his investigation that "certain members of the governor’s staff may have received lodging accommodations and other items" from Noe.

Taft said in a June 14 letter to the Ethics Commission that it has "recently come to my attention that I failed to list a number of golf outings or events on my financial disclosure forms over the past several years."
In a statement, Taft said he takes "full responsibility" for any omissions but declined further comment "on the advice of counsel."

Round of golf at the fabled Inverness Club: $125. Sleeve of Titleist V1 golf balls: $15. Round of drinks at the turn: $20. Lunch at the nineteenth hole: $75. Evidentiary value in ethics investigations and negative publicity for scandal-wracked Republicans: Priceless.


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