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Legislators express variety of emotions on actions, penalty



Published: Fri, August 19, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



One Republican believes Ohioans will forgive the governor but never forget.

By MICHELE C. HLADIK

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- Reviews of comments Gov. Bob Taft made at today's court proceedings and the sentence imposed are mixed among state lawmakers. They range from talk of public forgiveness to the need for impeachment proceedings.

"[Taft] stepped up and admitted what he'd done," said Ohio Senate President Bill Harris, R-Ashland. Harris added that while it was wrong, he doesn't believe Taft did it intentionally.

Late Thursday morning Taft pleaded no contest to charges he failed to report 52 gifts on his annual financial disclosure statements.

"It's disappointing when any of us messes up," said Sen. Ron Amstutz, R-Wooster.

He said the best thing Taft can do is continue to accept what he did wrong and move on.

Disappointed with sentence

Most criticism from Senate Democrats involved what some believed to be an easy and inappropriate sentence.

"I was totally disappointed in the sentencing," said state Sen. Bob Hagan, D-Youngstown.

He said he believes Taft should be serving time in jail for omissions.

"It's great he admitted he did wrong," Hagan said. "I'm not sure there's been any rehabilitation. I'm not sure he's been corrected."

Other Democrats and critics don't believe jail time is necessary but said the penalty should have been tougher.

"I am disappointed that [Taft], unlike the overwhelming majority of citizens convicted of first-degree misdemeanors, did not receive probation as part of his sentence," said state Democratic Sen. Marc Dann of Liberty. "My disappointment arises not from a desire to see [Taft] punished more severely but from my ongoing concern that he will continue to stonewall and obstruct the search for the truth about the corrupt pay-to-steal culture he helped establish and from which he benefited."

Sen. Lynn Wachtmann, R-Napoleon, said he also has heard from people in his district that Taft should have received a stiffer punishment.

Some Republicans believe the negative publicity Taft has received will also act as punishment.

"It's pretty devastating," Amstutz said.

Forgiveness factor

Sen. Joy Padgett, R-Coshocton said she believes Ohioans will forgive Taft but will never forget.

"It will haunt him the rest of his life," she said.

"Whether the people of Ohio forgive him remains to be seen," Harris said and added he believes Ohioans will forgive him.

He said he believes Taft's apologies will have an impact on that forgiveness. "He certainly was very sincere in his statements about being disappointed in himself," Harris said.

Retaining his job

During a press conference Thursday, Taft maintained he will remain seated as governor and continue to do the job he was elected to do.

However, feelings on this issue were also mixed.

Harris said questions on whether Taft would resign are premature.

"When you really get down to it, there's no indication he tried to hide anything," Harris said.

Amstutz said any call for resignation should be based on the severity of the issue. He said he doesn't believe this situation is serious enough to warrant Taft's resignation.

Wachtmann said he has heard from a number of his constituents who would like to see Taft resign over the issue.

"The charges are totally unanswered and should be heard in an impeachment hearing," Hagan said.

He said those who help Taft cover up the wrongdoing should also be held accountable.

"He's hiding behind his friends in high places," Hagan said.




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