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TAFT'S CONVICTION Dems discuss what to do next



Published: Wed, August 24, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The House Democratic leader called for a bipartisan investigation of Taft's actions.

By JEFF ORTEGA

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- The Ohio House's top Democrat says Ohioans deserve to know more about the controversies swirling around Republican Gov. Bob Taft, the only sitting Ohio governor who's been charged and convicted of a crime.

House Minority Leader Chris Redfern and other House Democrats met Tuesday for briefings on the impeachment process, the process by which constitutional officers can be removed from office.

Redfern, a Catawba Island Democrat, didn't call for the impeachment of Taft, who last week pleaded no contest in Franklin County Municipal Court to four misdemeanor ethics violations involving gifts he received including golf outings that authorities say should have been reported on the governor's financial disclosure forms from 2001 to 2004.

But Redfern called for the creation of a bipartisan committee with both Republican and Democratic chairmen to examine the issues surrounding Taft, who was convicted and ordered to pay $4,000 in fines in his criminal case, and others.

How Noe is involved

Taft's conviction stems in part from various probes into the actions of Thomas Noe, a northwest Ohio coin dealer and Republican fund-raiser who managed about $50 million of state Bureau of Workers' Compensation funds in rare coins.

Noe's lawyers, court records say, have acknowledged that between $10 million and $13 million of the BWC funds haven't been accounted for.

All told, investment losses in the coin funds as well as other BWC investment losses total about $300 million, news reports say.

"The truth will come out. It always does," Redfern said.

Redfern said his caucus received information from the Legislative Service Commission, the research arm of the Legislature, about impeachment proceedings and heard from various experts on the issue.

No decision was made whether to try to press for impeachment articles, Redfern said.

According to the Ohio Constitution, a majority of 99 members of the Ohio House of Representatives would be needed to initiate impeachment proceedings. If impeachment articles are approved, the Ohio Senate would conduct the impeachment trial, with a two-thirds majority required for conviction.

Democrats are in the minority around Capitol Square. The GOP dominates the Ohio House 60 to 39 and the Ohio Senate 22 to 11.

Votes needed

If all 39 House Democrats voted to go forward with impeachment proceedings, they would still need 11 Republican votes for impeachment articles against Taft to be approved.

Redfern said he has spoken to Republicans in the Legislature and elsewhere concerning potential impeachment proceedings against Taft, but he declined to elaborate.

House Speaker Jon A. Husted, a suburban Dayton Republican, couldn't be reached to comment.

But state Rep. Charles Blasdel of East Liverpool, the House's No. 2 GOP leader, said he didn't believe Taft's criminal convictions merited impeachment or resignation.

"I'm not so sure it merits removing him from office," Blasdel said.

Taft spokesman Mark Rickel said: "Taft, in the last two years of his second and final four-year term in office, will not resign. He's looking to continue to work hard for the next 16 months. & quot;




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